Posted on 


 in ,

Hackers and Casuals

Pats linked to this fascinating piece from Ajay Kulkarni at GroupMe talking about the challenges of designing for different audiences within the Android user base. Android, he says, is the 'Platypus of the mobile world…a complicated beast, a bizarre combination of two very different animals'. Those very different animals being the Hackers (early Android users who invested in the platform because of its open principles), and the Casuals (later immigrants to Android, often upgrading from feature phones because of cheaper, increasingly prolific devices).

This presents a challenge in designing services since each set of users has a very different set of behaviours and expectations:

"Hackers customize. They install their own keyboards, dialers, messaging apps, even home screens. Many are developers. They explore, they tinker. They love settings, settings, and more settings.

Casuals personalize. They like wallpapers and custom ringtones. But they don't tinker. Many are late adopters to smartphones. They use Facebook, Twitter, and other popular apps, but they don't explore new apps or technologies."

So developing for both becomes tricky: you can't just build the app for yourself; each group expects the app to do different things; it makes it harder to test; the former audience loves change, the latter doesn't.

Their solution is insightful:

  • Building to reflect both sets of behaviour: "build it for Casuals and let Hackers customize it"
  • Viewing the app as a Casual: "You need to get outside yourself…we try to internalize how they think and behave, so that their reactions can become our reactions."
  • The importance of beta testing with casuals, not just hackers
  • If Casuals sometimes take time to come round to a new feature but might end up loving it, using data to recognise the difference between that and a feature which has simply been poorly executed.

All too easy, I think, to design for one audience and forget the potentially very different behaviours and preferences of another.

Leave a Reply