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Glossary » individual differences

individual differences

people vary in a number of ways that can have an impact on the design of a user interface, and rather than trying to design for “the average user”, it is often better to understand how people vary to design acceptably for a broad audience. Sometimes this may even mean designing separate user interfaces for different user populations, such as when extremely simplified drawing programs are made for young children versus sophisticated versions designed for graphic design professionals.

Some of the main categories of variations that are of interest to designers are:

  • user experience level – how well users know their subject domain, computing skills, internet skills, …
  • user preferences – users will choose settings according to their own tastes and work practices
  • market segment – such as age, gender, education, occupation, hobby, and income level
  • variation in ability – users often have relevant physical or cognitive limitations; for instance, near-sightedness and color blindness are extremely common, and these can usually be easily addressed when a designer is aware of the issues