When I was a developer going through user interface (human factors) training, I was taught all about white space, use of colors, expected behavior of controls, and so forth. User Experience expands that view to include all aspects of the user’s interaction with the software. But in practice it still often focuses on frequent users. That makes sense since people who live in an application on a daily basis are best able to articulate their needs and are often who the system is designed for.
Who Are Occasional Users and Why Should I Care?
But a recent survey that I was part of found that over half of respondents that use analytics and BI, CRM, and ERP applications are occasional users. By occasional users I mean those users that report using a system only on a weekly or monthly basis. This excludes the ones that responded “rarely or never”. I often characterize these users half-jokingly as the type that have to spend 15 minutes getting into a system because they forgot how to access it or what their password is.
Why should designers care about users who represent only a small fraction of the usage of their application? Quite a few of these occasional users have outsized importance to the goals of the application owner. They may be the management layers above the daily users that jump in now and then to make sure there aren’t any crises or to solve a problem. Or they could be financial or legal personnel whose presence in the system indicates a serious issue being explored. The buyer probably sees these are high value users, even if they aren’t frequent users.
Sometimes it just gums up the works when these users are slow to react to tasks that need their input or approval in the system.
How to Improve the UX for Occasional Users
So how do you improve the user experience for occasional users of an application (beyond making it easier to use, which helps all users)?
The best approach is to negate the need for them to use the application in the first place. Does Finance only needs to use the application when customer margin dips below 3% (which isn’t very often)? Then use “guided attention” techniques to alert them only when that threshold is reached and don’t bother them otherwise. They can just get an email or text on the rare occasions when this happens. That way they don’t need to log into the application on their own accord to check reports about how customer margins are doing.
The next step is to figure out which applications those occasional users are in more frequently. Then enable those applications to act as the interface for simple tasks they need to complete. Yes, I’m talking about email forms – or Teams or Slack notifications for a more modern approach – with action buttons.
Finally, if the user does need to jump into the application, make it as easy as possible to find the right spot. If a manager only needs to visit the recruiting system a few times when interviewing for an open position and not again for years, notify them with links that take them directly to the section they want. Otherwise they won’t remember how to navigate the interface to get to where they need to go.
A little outreach and concierge service for those occasional – but important – users will improve the overall value a buyer sees from your system.
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