It has been frequently argued that design can be suited to the experience level of the user, and that therefore a more sophisticated user can handle a more complicated design. I have found that this view is not universally true, and that designs that are held up as elegant successfully mask complexity from users of all skill levels. This piece by Hoekman entitled The Myth of the Sophisticated User is spot on.
In evaluating two hypothetical users, one ("John") who just wants to be able to use a piece of software that is required for his job, and another ("Jane") who is a power-user who "gets things done", probably uses OmniFocus and most definitely has a new iPad on order. With the two users, there are different levels of confidence, familiarity, and comfort.
The point of the article is that there is only one way to do good design, and that is to make it as easy as possible for any user to "get in", do a task, and "get out". No user, rookie or pro wants to spend more than a reasonable amount of time figuring out how to do any task, simple or complex. And while it has been argued that the power-user can get by with less intuitive controls, it does not mean that the power-user will put up with it.
Following up on my post on Word Processors the other day, and skewing over to presentation-land (a magical land?), I would point out that I try to avoid using the newer versions ofPowerPoint whenever possible, because the redesigned interface (ribbon, etc.) has made it too time-consuming to figure out how to do stuff that I used to find very intuitive.
I think this quote sums it up best:
If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re a Jane. You are a tech-savvy, confident user who jams those buttons down like there’s no tomorrow, fearlessly marching your way through whatever task stands in your way. When was the last time you had the time and willingness to put up with a poor interface from a company that thought it could get away with it because you’re an experienced user? When was the last time you liked it? When was the last time you recommended an app with such a design?
Simplicity is in the eye of the beholder (Frankfurt, Germany 2010)