I was reading through blogs today when I found this post by Ian about Photoshop and the fact that folks use 10 percent of the features. One of Ian’s comments struck an interesting cord with me:
He may only use 10% but perhaps I use a different 10%.
It got me thinking about the where I first heard the famous line “users only use 10% of the features”, it was in regards to Word. At my old, small-office job I always believed that was true. I was sure we only ever used 10% of the features at the most. When I moved over to a larger office, I thought maybe users would be using closer to 20 or 25%. That thought continued to be in my mind as I struggled trying to master the features that folks in a law firm use that I hadn’t spent much time supporting in my old job. Stuff like section breaks, footnotes, tables of contents, etc. We simply didn’t work with documents that long and detailed in a small office the same way. On the other hand, over time I’ve noticed that there are things I used to support a lot, that folks here hardly ever do, like mail merges, mailing labels, name tag merges, etc. So in reality, while each of these sets of users are doing pretty different things, and only using a small fraction of the available features, there different features.
So maybe the fact that users only use 10% of the available features isn’t much of a critique of any piece of technology, because different groups are going to be using a different 10%. Word, for example, needs to fit for all of those different groups with all their different needs, so it has a ton of features. If it didn’t, it’d be destined to be only a niche product.
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