Tuesday, October 24, 2006

uses versus users

Something else came up in a number of discussions here recently that really struck me. We were talking about different types of users -- faculty, graduate students, undergraduates -- when the topic turned in a interesting direction. No user is a single type -- a faculty member might be ordering reserves one day and looking for a DVD to check out for the weekend on another day. A graduate student might a faculty member's proxy one day, doing their own research another day, or looking for beach reading in July. We all know this.

So, why don't we talk about uses rather than users?

Browsing. Searching. Research. Reserves. These cross many demographics. Let's analyze our services and interfaces from these standpoints, and not in terms of what "the faculty" or "the undergraduates" need. In other words, not a persona but a category of use. I don't have these ideas fully formed yet, but as someone who has spent a lot of time doing individual usability testing, I'm going to continue to give this some thought.

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