Power Users are not a Target Market

Of all the things I have heard people say about defining their target users, or their UX strategy, the thing I hear most is that someone is designing for power users. Let me explain why that is impossible.


First of all, when I say “power user” I mean the users who do a lot and do it well.

They are daily users, they understand the deeper, cooler features, and most of all, they spend money (if that applies to your product/service).

Statistically speaking, this is one of those times when 80% of the activity and revenue will be created from about 20% of the users. Those are power users. 

(In my experience it tends to be more like 90/10 for social stuff but I digress…)

So everybody wants to design the things that those people want, and advertise what those people like, to attract more people like that.

Seems obvious, right?

Well, it’s a trap.

And a lot of people fall for it.


The first mistake product people and designers make is thinking that a “power user” is a type of person.

They aren’t.

You can’t define power users, except from within your own product or service. It is a category of your users, not a type of person in the world.

If a potential power user isn’t a user yet, you don’t know who they are, and therefore you cannot target them.

In other words, until someone registers for, or downloads, your product and spends some time with it, they cannot be a power user.

You might have missed it in that last sentence, but what I just said means that every power user was once a normal, basic, user.

If they must be inside your product or service to define them, then how can you target them as potential users?

You can’t. That’s the trap.


Don’t mistake ignorance for focus.

In real life, when companies “focus” on power users, they are actually choosing to avoid their problems. They only want to work on the people that do what they want naturally, rather than trying to create power users, like they should.

All power users start as basic users.

But creating power users takes skill and time and it’s hard. So people prefer to fall into the Power User trap instead.

Therefore, you should focus on creating new, basic users, and create power users from within. Focusing on power users and ignoring the basic users means you are ignoring the biggest, most valuable group of your own users.

Why the hell would you want to do that?!

Designing for Power Users means designing for basic users first.


Power Users vs. Ideal Users

Power Users are not people who will find and understand the advanced features. They are users who already have. If your features were different, or if your execution was different, they might not have become a power user.

What you can do is design for ideal users. (Who will also be basic users first, so don’t use this to justify your power user fetish.)


An Ideal User Profile is a description of a user that might not exist, ever. But if they did exist, they would be your dream-come-true.

They would make tons of content, every day, forever. They would share with everybody they know. They would upgrade on the first day and keep upgrading. They would dedicate their lives to your product and the betterment of the world, just the way you intended.

Good luck with that. But this isn’t supposed to be realistic.

Did you know that 50% of ALL Amazon reviews were written by 27 people in 2009?

Thousands and thousands of reviews. 27 people.

Those are ideal users. Much less than 1% of all users, producing enough activity to move the whole business forward.

Ask yourself… what would a user like that need?

Editing tools? A place to collaborate with other users? A dashboard to help them manage their activity? Sharing tools? A way to invite all their friends in one click? A way to create a playlist for hours of enjoyment? Maybe a desktop app to handle multiple accounts?

The answer is different for every product. But there is always an answer.

Always design the basic stuff first, and make it easy-to-use. Then, as your product evolves, start moving the power users toward this “ideal” set of behaviours.

And ask power users what they need. You might be surprised how small their requests are and how much difference they make.

Also, allow your Ideal User Profile to shift and adapt over time. A UX Designer is a behavioural sculptor, not a dictator.

But Ideal Users aren’t a target market either, because you made them up.