Programming and People: You are not the average user
Here’s a question: how does one find the average user? Some might say that the answer is, through a very long journey of associating elements between persona creation, data from test groups, user experience and user interface design and technical development. Another way to think about it is that it’s more important to find out what they represent (Chi Zhao Take a Holistic View of Your User, Forbes Agency Council 2017).
How average is the average user?
The average user is supernaturally average; average in a way that no other singular user can ever be. The average user is a construction of the overlapping interests, habits and interaction data from scores of different people. You are not the average user, rather, we are the average user.
If you’d allow the use of a metaphor, calculating the average in a data set of any kind is merely a way of calibrating your metaphorical compass to true North, but it does not give you the exact location of Santa’s workshop. There are still many other obstacles in the tundra, many more blizzards to withstand and many dire wolves baying for your blood, Game-of-Thrones style.
How average is your data collecting?
One aspect of data collecting is investigating the methodology behind the collected data. For example, management analysis firms like McKinsey & Co., regularly publish findings from their global surveys, but they also go out of their way to explain their survey methodology in most cases. Their aim is to allow readers to exercise their own critique on how the information is found (perhaps from another source like a government body) or collected (compiled, analysed, and interpreted from their own independent operations). So, it’s important when collating information, to look at how your information is found or collected. You might discover a new angle to it or find that it’s not applicable to your technical development at all.
Is there anything personal about user personas?
Multiple user personas could also be more useful to you and might get you a little further on your journey to Santa’s Workshop. Instead of just one average user, create a small party of travellers, each representing a segment of your audience. With personas, you are acknowledging the complexities of your audience and the complexities of your product or service (something we touched on last time; the continuum of access and how it relates to ubiquity).
At TTRO, our best projects have been the ones where there was more of an iterative process to our production, rather than a once-off product delivery. We were able to learn more about our audience and could shift the content and media ‘closer’ towards them, ultimately enabling them to find and access the information they needed more direction. This has allowed us to have minimal interference between the content and the user. But remember, you must accept that there will always be interference, it just needs to be a tolerable level of interference.
It’s not only used to view your average user ‘holistically’ but also to view the process of constructing an average user (or users) as a process of progressively eliminating your own ignorance about your audience. The more data you can find and collect, the more accurately you can speak to them. So, get going!
Author: Simon Pienaar