I think a lot about the user experience when I’m testing. Not only for conformance with the UX guide we refer to but also in less tangible, subjective, respects such as how the software will feel to different kinds of users.

The UX guide can’t help here. Although it has value and the potential to save time – for example, by reducing the number of discussions about capitalisation policy for dialog title bars to merely single figures per release – at close to 900 pages it is not a shining example of usability itself and it doesn’t try to answer the question who’s a user? In particular, it has only a handful of mentions of new users outside of the section on first-timers which itself is largely about setting up the product rather than using it.

Inexperienced users will at various points form a significant enough proportion of your userbase that they merit special attention and when that happens, you’ll need to think about lack of experience with your product, this class of product, this complexity of product, this domain, computers in general and so on.

You’ll make your assumptions about which and how to model them when you need to, taking into account your situation and software. Perhaps you’re working out from early adopters and your target user will still be quite tech savvy and accommodating. Or maybe you’re moving to an adjacent market and it’s the domain details that’ll change. Or perhaps you’re working on a mass-market killer app where an unpleasurable or complex user experience could be the app’s killer and so you’ll be thinking about those little old ladies, busy parents, children and senior management.

It may be tempting, but don’t just focus on workflow, on greasing the path from input to result, because, while this is often advantageous, your newbies may not even know what the workflow is yet. Maintain visibility of the whole product, including documentation, and look at the kinds of heuristics that can be employed when considering the product aside from stated requirements. Get your newest employees to try the software without training and, especially, think about feedback and whether users will understand what they’ve achieved, how, and how to change it to what they really wanted. Remember: if users can’t get that, inexperienced or not, they’ll certainly know enough to go somewhere else.
Image: http://flic.kr/p/4NkPkQ