The users in each of three categories have varying skills, motivations, and experience levels in performing initial tasks, typified by the following general characteristics:
- Novices typically have little or no knowledge or experience in setting up a computer or computer option.
- Some perceive computers as complex and fragile devices. They proceed very cautiously, attempting to read and follow each instruction exactly.
- They tend to take instructions literally and stumble over industry jargon, acronyms, and other unfamiliar terms.
- Some are likely to take a "consumer" approach, treating the product like an appliance, expecting to plug it in and turn it on. They don't know what to expect.
- They value features and function for the cost paid and expect very high reliability.
- They have high expectations of what the product can do, based on advertisements, and have little interest in or appreciation for underlying technologies.
- Novices are of all ages, including children and senior citizens.
- Occasional users have had some experience setting up a computer or computer option, although it may have been some time ago.
- They probably use a computer often and have some appreciation for setup and configuration tasks.
- They may view some instructions as guidelines and skip steps where they think they know what they're doing. They are somewhat familiar with industry terms and acronyms but may not fully understand them.
- They understand that setup and configuration tasks have to be done, but they don't like it. They wish the product were like an appliance so they could start using it immediately.
- They realize that advertisements may make tasks look easier than they really are. They will ultimately value a core set of tasks for which they acquired the product.
- Occasional users are of all ages but tend to be in the 20 - 50 year old range.
- Experienced users perform computer setup and configuration tasks frequently. These tasks may be a primary job responsibility.
- They understand the capabilities and limitations of computer products. They are not awed by claims. They know what kinds of things can go wrong and what to do about it.
- They probably won't follow instructions, at least not after they've done something once. They may desire quick-reference aids that help them remember essential steps. They know industry terms but may need an introduction to new terms.
- They are time and productivity driven. They want to get into productive use of the product.
- They will value a quick and efficient initial experience that is easy to repeat when applied to multiple products.
- Experienced users tends to be in the 25 - 50 year old range.
Geographical and cultural considerations
User differences between geographies and cultures should be considered in addition to the characteristics listed above.
For example, novice and occasional users in some countries tend to be much less familiar with personal computers than in the United States.
While these guidelines do not currently address such differences, product designers should take the initiative to understand their user community
and use that knowledge in the application of these guidelines for the best overall result.