Your Users Aren’t Exactly Like You

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Working in Customer Support has provided a pretty unique view into user behavior. Namely, the users I support probably aren’t just like me. They have different habits, different ways of using technology, and different backgrounds.

I’ve been reminded of this three separate times over the past two weeks.

First, Anil Dash fired off a few tweets about how “regular people” use their computers:

Second, we did an internal tech survey at Automattic highlighting that, as a trend, Automatticians work on top of the line computers/mobile devices on fast(er) internet connections. Meanwhile, users we support might be working on older devices with older browsers.

Lastly, I had a peer review with a colleague this week. We were discussing how to best support users that weren’t as familiar with computers. For example, I’ve had many users ask me how to copy/paste a link or even ask me what a link/URL/web address was.

I frequently make the mistake of assuming users I interact with are just like me. They’re technologically savvy. The understand how the internet works and what domains are for. They’re familiar with and have an idea of how to navigate around. They’re running the latest browser versions.

This is a mistake.

Users are unique. They might use the product different than originally intended. They might not come from the same background or have the same knowledge base to draw from.

If you want to provide great support and build great products, break the assumption that your users are just like you.

(P.S. One of the most beneficial things I’ve done for this was in-person user testing in Austin. Get some of your users together and run them through a typical use-case for your app. It’s very very helpful.)

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