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Suggestion: User definitions, profiles, and personas to guide development


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In another topic, Charles mentioned that basic knowledge of HTML and CSS is required to use IPB software.

As a new customer, I was not aware of these requirements, although luckily I can handle both.

With this tidbit as an example, I would like to suggest a fundamental usability design technique to guide IPB development in general: User definition, profiles, and personas.

IPB may have several user groups, such as "inexperienced forum admins," "experienced forum admins," and "developers."

If basic knowledge of HTML and CSS is all that's required to use IPB software, that would be baseline knowledge in the user group definition for "inexperienced forum admins." The baseline knowledge requirement should be included somewhere in introductory materials so people know what they're getting into before purchase. Documentation and support might also point to html and css tutorials for customers weak in those areas.

The "inexperienced forum admins" have other characteristics as well, to be included in the user group definition. Writing this up as a composite fictional user, or persona (maybe named Crabpaws), will help developers, documentation writers, support people, and site info architects visualize who it is they're designing for and make decisions accordingly.

That's just an example if "inexperienced forum admins" is actually a target market. It's a business decision to determine how each group aligns with your business objectives and how you should allocate resources to design for that group. Conceivably, IPB might be able to sell more units to the larger population of "inexperienced forum admins" but prefer to design for "experienced forum admins" or "developers" to secure a market niche. (It looks to me like IPB wants to be more universal.)

Amid the clamor for new features and improvements on existing software and expanded documentation, it can be difficult to determine which effort would be best for the business. You can't please everybody immediately. Identification of user groups and determining priorities for each permits better decision-making about where to put resources.

This affects marketing, too. On one hand, IPB could offer flashy features beyond its competition's, and garner favorable mention in the experienced forum admin and developer communities. On the other hand, outstanding usability for inexperienced admins might be more appealing to a wider number of corporate customers and non-technical people. Either could be marketing advantages.

It's not a zero-sum game, either. Management might determine expending 50% of effort on one group, 30% on another, and 20% on the third would be the optimal way to grow customers. Sales and marketing people should be brought in to confer on these decisions.

I hope you can see how this would increase usability for target markets and marketing advantage for the company.

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