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"Know Your Users" is the mantra of any good designer. Yet, *what* should you actually know about your users?

Over the years we've studied the usability of hundreds of product and web site designs. We've seen designs that were incredibly effective for users and designs that fell tremendously short. One emerging pattern in our ongoing research is that design teams that know a lot about their users are more likely to produce user experiences that are usable, effective, and pleasing.

In a recent usability test, we had the chance to observe a user, Leslie, visit Citibank's web site. Leslie had done business with the bank for years, through her existing checking, savings, and credit card accounts. It was the first bank account her parents set her up with and she'd been a loyal Citibank customer ever since.

Leslie had recently come into a large sum of money, due to the unfortunate death of her ailing grandmother. Her grandmother was an important role model to Leslie. Leslie really wanted to take her inheritance and invest it for the future, just like her grandmother had done. However, she didn't know how to begin.

Because of Leslie's loyalty to Citibank, who had always taken care of her money, she decided to turn to their web site for advice on investing. On the Citibank.com home page, she was first tempted to go to the "Investing and Markets" link at the very top-center, but then the "Learn about a financial topic" pulldown caught her eye. (To see the Citibank home page that Leslie saw click here.)

Since she'd never really had enough money to invest before, she was looking to learn about what all of her options were. She was thrilled that the pulldown contained an entry labeled "Investing."

Before Leslie clicked on that entry, we asked her about what she thought the site would give her. She told us that she was looking for a good introduction to investing, outlining what all of her options were for putting this money away for the future.

Leslie had all sorts of questions: Should she use the money to buy a house? Or invest in the market, since prices were so low? Or maybe she should do a little of both? Are there other ways to invest money that would work to better advantage? She was excited and anxious, feeling like a whole new world was opening up in front of her.

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Jared M. Spool is a leading expert in the field of usability and design since 1978, before the term "usability" was ever associated with computers. He is the Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering (www.uie.com), the largest usability research organization of its kind in the world.