Just had one of my attitudes challenged:

My attitude: We should be designing for our users. Yes, we need to have a good understanding of what else is going on in the market, understand what the competition if offering but fundamentally our work should be focussed on making our USER's lives easier. We must also design for our primary user (the 80%, not the 20%, not the power users) and making that beautiful combination of form and function.

This of course makes sense and results in great UI and web design,


What if 20% of our users are responsible for 80% of our revenue? And they are a specific type of user. For example - 20% corporate users bringing in most of the revenue as opposed to the 80% regular users that work for small or medium sized companies the bring in the remaining 20% of revenue?

  • 2
    This is a question for your product owners to answer. – DA01 Jul 10 '14 at 0:29
  • You are playing percentages here as if 80%/20% of target/non-target users are the same 80%/20% of non-buyers/buyers. I would rather suggest you to imagine that 20% of the 80% of target users will buy your product as well as 20% of the 20% specific-need users will also buy your product. – Aidas Bendoraitis Jul 10 '14 at 0:35
  • The people who pay the most are also usually prepared to put up with the most, so should you be aiming at them either? Look at politics, they aim at the borderline cases where your effort is going to make the most difference. – JamesRyan Jul 10 '14 at 10:06
  • You should be asking what if... this should be something that the business knows about. I suppose this is why I asked the question about business/user intelligence: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/60740/… – Michael Lai Jul 10 '14 at 22:38
  • Do you expect that breakdown to stay the same? Are you trying to grow your market? Good design is a great way to bring new users in, ones who would find yourself valuable but are put off by its painfulness. – Alex Feinman Aug 24 '15 at 16:25

This is a really interesting question. It seems to me there are two contradictory alternatives here; which one applies to you will depend greatly on your product and business model.

  1. If there's no specific reason (e.g. aggressive introductory pricing) why those 80% of your users are generating such a disproportionately-poor conversion rate (especially if that group represents a majority of your users), that would seem to imply that group needs special attention to help right the imbalance, and thus you should be dedicating your energy around improving the experience for those users that choose not to pay as much.
  2. If, however, you expect a given market segment to generate a much smaller revenue per user (e.g. a freemium model, where the majority of customers only generate revenue through ad impressions, but where the smaller group of users who choose to upgrade generate direct revenue), your business goal would apparently be to increase the conversion rate from free to paid user. With that in mind, your best course of action would seem to be to improve the paid product as much as possible to provide the best incentives to upgrade (and the best word of mouth). Of course that doesn't mean deliberately crippling the experience for non-paying users; it just means dividing your labour according to expected earning potential.

If you believe that you only have a finite amount of UX improvement you can provide, and you want to maximise the utility of your time, you're basically describing the demand curve. In order to maximise your return on investment, you'll first need to plot out your demand curve (or assume it meets the idealised examples in microeconomics textbooks). The best area to target would then be the group that maximises the area of the rectangle under the line:

The demand curve, identifying the ideal price to maximise return
Image by Chris Dixon

…and just like an economist, if you identify that you're neglecting too large a group of your customers (those that fall either above or to the right of the green rectangle in the diagram), you can segment your energy according to the different groups (either by dividing your own design labour according to the demand curve, or hiring another UX resource to target a different segment).

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In a response to an unrelated but similar question asked earlier today, user funkylaundry brought up a great point: UX is a differentiator for your product.

To answer a business question in business lingo, good UX helps you "grow the pie." That is to say, a good experience for an SME user will attract more SMEs (20% revenue of a larger user community/client base is still more money), and it will build word of mouth and reputation that will attract more corporate clients as well.

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First part of my answer is that I don't think you have to choose just 1 type of user to design for, rather you should have a set of users whom you design for and they should have a clear an well informed priority between them. A general structure of priorities is:

Purpose What is the purpose of this product/service/project? You need to answer this question before anything else. Hint: if you have a purpose, ask "why?" to that. Ask "why?" to that answer. Keep going until you arrive at the answer "to make money". The answer you said just before that is probably your real purpose

Users Who are the users you're designing for? These should be prioritized according to how well they fulfill the abovementioned purpose. For each users you should have a prioritized list of:

Needs What are the needs of the users? This is not "add calendar items to outlook", but should instead be "be able to plan my time". These should be prioritized according to how well they fulfill the purpose as well. Under needs you get your:

Functionality These are the functions that actually make up the final product. This is where you get your "add calendar items to outlook". They are attached to a need, and should be prioritized based on how well they fulfill that need.

So now you have this great big hierarchy of items, at the bottom you have the functions that you need to design for. Make sure that the functions at the top get the most focus, and you're not longer designing for one user, you're designing for your system!

Second part of my answer:

As for which users should be prioritized? Honestly, if the users who make up your main income is not your main focus I'd say you either:

  1. Have already fulfilled their needs to great extent
  2. You want to add new market segments
  3. For some reason profits is not important for your company

Unless you're just doing this for fun, designers as well as every other role in your company need to be aware of the fact that everything you do is either for the end purpose of making the company money, or to enable an entity elsewhere in your company to make money.

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