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Making it Easy for Everyone

This next installment in our Design Philosophy is going to sound a little counter-intuitive. At Newton, we think that the people who use our software the most aren’t necessarily the people that are critical to its success. Our “Critical User” is the person that uses Newton intermittently, every now and then, once a day, once a week, or maybe even less.

Up to this point, companies have designed business software almost entirely for what we might call a “Power User”, i.e. people that are going to use it day in and day out. If you have ever trained a new hire on one of your company’s programs, you may have noticed this before. Your new co-worker is impressed, perhaps even amazed, at your vast software knowledge because you are able to navigate complexity with relative ease.

For a business process like recruiting where 90% of the users don’t hire all of the time and therefore don’t use recruiting software day in and day out, this design focus leads to 10% user adoption. Casual users don’t have the time or usage frequencies that foster retention of complex features.

This is why at Newton we put a great deal of emphasis on casual users. In fact, we build our application in direct contradiction to the software design zeitgeist: our software design starts with casual users, and then trickles up to power users.

Our goal has always been that when a client deploys Newton to their team the person buying the software is proud of their decision because everyone likes it. We want their co-workers to say, “Wow, this is really simple and easy. Thanks for making my day better.” We think this happens with Newton because we care a great deal about all of the people using the software, not just the power users.

And this leads us to the next installment of our Design Philosophy…enjoy.

Ignore power users when designing features.
I.E. Keep it simple.

Keep in mind that software applications aren’t bicycles. You don’t learn them once and remember them forever.

One axis of the learning curve is time. The majority of the people using Newton to hire have other job responsibilities and don’t have time to learn our software, and they’ll forget a lot of what they’ve learned between logins. They are going to get an opening, use Newton for a few weeks, fill the job and then not use Newton until they are hiring again. Here’s what the learning curve might look like for our users:

A crude rendition of how we remember things.
A crude rendition of how we remember things.

So be very careful when you design a feature or a page. If someone other than a power user is going to need to use it, it better be really simple. Simply put, features for non-power users must almost always be one click and done. Every page should have an obvious intention. If something requires training or explanation people will become frustrated and won’t use it. As below:

Avoid the Ugh zone.
Avoid the "Ugh" zone.

How to Test Your Designs
Always test your design by mocking it up, and then afterward ask someone that knows absolutely nothing about Newton to take a look at it. Your only question should be, “What do you need to do here?” If the answer is predicated by “Hmmm…,” you should probably go back to the drawing board. If your page or your feature can stand by itself without explanation, you’ve done a good job and have avoided the Ugh zone.

In summary,

If you need to explain how something works, it probably won’t.

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