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first-time userA first-time user is an individual, who for the very first time uses a computer, software application or anything else for that matter. Everyone is a first-time user when confronted with a new app, a control panel on a home appliance or even the dashboard in a new car. When it comes to the user interface in applications, every one of them has some menu selections that are downright indecipherable. See first-time reader, first-time user menu and RTFM.
Where Is the Quick-Start Guide?
Many appliances, printers and other electronic devices come with a printed quick-start guide that instructs the user how to set them up. What we need is the "application quick-start guide" that explains the handful of functions people use all the time.
Even IT Pros Struggle
Software engineers are first-time users when they work with a comprehensive software tool for the first time. Experienced programmers often struggle to learn a new development environment, because the names chosen to describe every function and the hierarchy they are presented in are arbitrary and not well thought out. In fact, many software tools, most notably integrated development environments (IDEs), are extremely obscure, and the companies that create them are mostly oblivious to this fact. Of course, after months of experience learning a new product, the struggle is over, and what was once difficult becomes routine. The result is a huge amount of satisfaction along with an equal amount of job preservation. See naming fiascos and IDE.
There Aren't Enough In-house Testers
When testing a new software application, there are rarely enough first-time users available to do the job efficiently. After the first round of testing is evaluated and changes are made, the software is handed out again. However, in most cases, the same people who looked at round one are reviewing it in round two and so on. They are no longer first-time users, and therein lies the problem. Once someone has been exposed to a function, they will retain some of that experience, and although they may find the changes better, they already had some idea about what to expect. Ten testing rounds with 10 people really requires 100 people to do the job right, and that is rarely done if ever. The real testers are the eventual customers, which is why new versions of major products are released in beta to hundreds and thousands of users. See good user interface, user interface and beta version.
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