If we categorize the users as "Early Adopters" and "Late Adopters", whom should we design for?

The categorization is not just based on their age, but their capabilities or interest towards adopting the new technologies into their lifestyle as soon as they are available.

The Early Adopters (20%) percentage is much lesser than the Late Adopters (80%).

I would be really thankful to you if you can share your thoughts and research in this area. Thank you.

Update (real scenario): I have built a clickable prototype and doing usability testing:

  1. I have created a Datagrid which is same as Dropbox Datagrid.
  2. For multi-row selection, I haven't used any checkboxes.
  3. Ctrl + click selects random rows and Shift + click selects rows continuously

Now, the problem is, very few users are able to select the rows using the keyboard and mouse (random or continuous), but the majority of the users are asking for checkboxes (the traditional way).

If we consider the former as Early Adopters and latter as Late Adopters? whom should we go with in this case?

I am not against using checkboxes, but despite providing coach marks, education, hints, etc., not sure why the majority of the users want to go with traditional way?

  • The answer by Kristiyan is perfect, I will just add the reasoning to your specific problem from users: you're negating visual cues (check marks and checkboxes), changing affordances and requiring 2 hands to be used instead of one hand that only clicks. In short: you're adding a lot of friction for 0 benefit. This is evident in testing, and this is why testing is needed. So if the results already tells you to change your paradigm... just do it
    – Devin
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:53
  • @Devin - thank you, I have responded to Kristiyan comments below. I am not trying to debate here, but trying to understand why Dropbox doesn't have this issue. The app which I'm building is almost same as Dropbox and all are super users. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:21
  • You'd be surprised at how difficult is for novice users to use Dropbox. As a matter of fact, it's usually mentioned as an example of bad UX that somehow stays, same as Spotify
    – Devin
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:46

3 Answers 3


Just design for both.

20% of users is a big percentage, and it cannot be underestimated. Loosing 1/5 of your user base can kill your business. If the percentage was less than 5% then you could have considered making it only for late adopters.

How ergonomists approach this problem:

In ergonomics, designers often have to make this choice and there is a standard term for this called anthropometrics of fit. For example, when a chair is designed they have to make it comfortable for as much people as they can. One chair cannot be comfortable for all sizes so exceptions should be made.

If you make the chair too tall it will be comfortable only for tall people, and the other way around. What they do is experiment with the dimensions of the chair so it should be comfortable for 95% of the population. This is the standard proportion in ergonomics. Only the shortest 2.5% and tallest 2.5% of people will find discomfort when they sit.

enter image description here

The example is from ergonomics but the same rules apply for UIs. So in your case this percentage is 20% so you should not overlook this user group.


Again the answer is go with both.

When users open the page they don't scan it 100% and know all the hints and help tips you provide. You know about them because you work on that interface. Most are not familiar with it and just scan your page and don't like to waste time of reading help tips, they want to do their job as fast as possible.

If you avoid putting checkboxes 80% of your users will get confused and eventually leave.

The UX terminology for early and late adopters is novice and expert users.

The guidelines in usability is to design for both user types, read here.

I don't know why you want to avoid using checkboxes as this is the standard way of selecting multiple rows in a table?

Definitely use both interaction methods!

  • Thank you and sorry :(. I have just updated the question with the real scenario, this is just one of the issues. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 12:58
  • @Kristiyan, I was about to answer with exactly what you said in your update. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:39
  • @KenMohnkern Yeah, sorry for that but this is so evident. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 15:43
  • @KristiyanLukanov : thank you, I am trying to use latest trends like Dropbox and certainly Dropbox must have done Usability Testing when it avoided the checkboxes. And regarding Early, Late adopters I'm referring to the users who are using the system for several years and when we come up with contemporary trends, they are not able to adopt the new system. I have training material from HFI with me, and I am referencing the same. NN/g refers the new visitor as Novice as per my understanding. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:08
  • Personally, I highly doubt Dropbox ever made any Usability Testing at all. And if they did, it was ran by novices. But that's just my opinion, of course. I could show you a whole collection of DB failures in less than 30 seconds, so don't believe everything you see. DB can afford the luxury of bad UX because of its market position, but... can you?
    – Devin
    Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 16:52

early adapters are the one who decides if your product or idea is good. if they like it they start spreading by words of mouth. so it's always better to test with early adapters and one thing to be carefull is to be bug free when you release it..and it is at this time you get lot of reviews and suggestions..so be ready for anything


I recently faced this issue. I'm a believer in using common affordances like checkboxes, but in the case I was dealing with we were adding batch actions late and there was little room left in the list item because of course people kept adding things to it.

The result was such a delicate balance that adding a checkbox would have had repercussions on how data would be displayed, probably requiring the introduction of ellipses more than I would like (which is never).

Now in my case I had something going for me: users would rarely if ever use the batch actions. For example, one of the batch actions is to trash an item. Yet after research I discovered that users had only 2-4 items in the trash. The next proposed batch action was for a feature even fewer users asked for. So I wondered if I could use progressive disclosure for our batch actions without causing confusion.

Each line item begins with an icon. So I made the icon the selection affordance, showing the entire line item with a different background color when selected. I added a short line of instructions: "To select an item for batch actions, click on the icon." It's the only line of instructions so it stands out. The menu of batch actions slides down when the user selects the first item.

Then I tested it. I was surprised at the high level of understanding. So it stays!

Some users expected to be able to click anywhere on the line to select it, but that was not an option for me because each of our lines contains multiple clickable items. But if that's not the case for you, this may be an option to consider.

I guess the answer is that these things depend on so many factors: users, placement, transitions, size, the general UI context, white space utilization, even colors. Conventions like checkboxes are safe and valuable and to be preferred, but that doesn't mean necessarily that a slight variation is dangerous -- unless testing proves it so.

  • Thank you Eric. Even I'm doing the same thing when user selects single or multiple items, I am providing context based options, batch operation options, etc. on top of the grid with clues. I don't have any other action items on the rows, except selection of the entire row. And the top portion of the data grid is fixed when user scrolls down to make the context based options and clues are always visible. Users adopted the flat designs, including buttons, but why not checkbox replacement? From the UX standpoint, flat buttons are not at all advised because of the accordance issue. Commented Oct 28, 2016 at 18:44

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