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This is more of a fundamental question about access to the "poweruser" features for an application.

One side thinks that power features should be more or less, "tough to find" and leaves the curious user to the task of finding them and exploring them on their own. This would be done in an attempt to reduce noise on the page for basic users.

The other side thinks that the application should be set up in a way to present all functionality in an easy-to-use format. If something is complex to use, there should be help-like tooltips, a way to hide the feature, etc.

What is the generally accepted practice here? Is this done on a case by case basis?

Here's an example

One function of the site is to allow nurses to review their patients via the patient review form, "Start a New Patient Review".

A second function of the site is to allow nurses to fill out any of their other "non patient" forms, the "power user" feature in this case as it isn't used as much as patient review forms.

We have two ways to lay this out:

  1. Have a "Start a New Patient Review" button which opens a dialog with just those forms and a harder-to-find "New Form" button which shows all of the other forms they have access to.
  2. Have a "Start a New Form" button with two columns: one with their patient review forms and one with their other forms.
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What do you mean by power users? –  you786 Oct 10 '12 at 19:16
    
And what are this power features? –  Xavier Portebois Oct 10 '12 at 19:29
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I updated this question to include an example. –  Mike G. Oct 10 '12 at 20:01

3 Answers 3

up vote 3 down vote accepted

It should be less about making those features "hard to find" and more a case of making them less obtrusive to those who don't need them.

There is also a difference between 'advanced' features that a smaller proportion of your users are likely to need and features that are likely to be used by everyone but less frequently.

The problem with making advanced features harder to access is that, while it makes sense for new users, it can quickly become frustrating when that new user becomes more experienced. Remember that a feature may well only be useful to advanced users, but those users may need to access it frequently and won't want to have to jump through hoops to find it. Ideally, the interface should adapt to serve the changing needs of the user.

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What do you mean by "there is a difference between 'advanced' features that a smaller proportion of your users are likely to need and features that are likely to be used by everyone but less frequently" ? –  Mike G. Oct 10 '12 at 21:32
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@Mike G. Similar concepts but different usability issues. Some features (which I'm referring to as 'advanced') are intended for users who have a higher-level of ability or who have been using a product for a long time. Other features, while not necessarily 'advanced', are used infrequently or in specific situations. It makes sense to tuck the latter out of the way for all users since they don't need to be immediately accessible but for the 'advanced' features, they might need to be immediately and frequently accessible to some users. –  Matt Obee Oct 10 '12 at 21:45

I think by the term "Poweruser" Mike is referring to users proficient in the use of applications and software. For my response, this will be the definition I'll use.

All software should present its full functionality to the user regardless of how experienced they may be, obviously you don't want to bombard users with a minefield of functions, but ultimately they should be accessible.

Your task should be to make core actions as simple as possible for those new to your software, as users grow more confident they will look for further functionality. In my experience, power users can be defined as users of your software looking for efficient means of getting the task done. This is usually in the form of keyboard shortcuts, which are found through a combination of user curiosity (trying and testing) and help articles available.

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+1 Aside from the obvious way of masking features (descending into menus), take the example of keyboard shortcuts. The very interaction mode suggests that they're targeted to power users, but they're usually accessible to everyone (as a right-justified tip on the menu item). Proficient users notice and use them, and less proficient users see but ignore them. –  msanford Oct 10 '12 at 19:54

Instead of trying to hide "power functions" in your app, I think it would be better to promote ideal paths for regular user actions. Make sure it's unmistakenly clear for them to know where to "Start a New Patient Review the easy way".

Your power functions should still be easily accessible and user friendly, yet less obtrusive as others have mentioned. It's not because they are functions for power users, that they should be less user friendly or harder to access.

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