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The Tyranny of the Marginal User - by Ivan Vendrov:

Here’s what I’ve been able to piece together about the marginal user. Let’s call him Marl. The first thing you need to know about Marl is that he has the attention span of a goldfish on acid. Once Marl opens your app, you have about 1.3 seconds to catch his attention with a shiny image or triggering headline, otherwise he’ll swipe back to TikTok and never open your app again.

Marl’s tolerance for user interface complexity is zero. As far as you can tell he only has one working thumb, and the only thing that thumb can do is flick upwards in a repetitive, zombielike scrolling motion. As a product designer concerned about the wellbeing of your users, you might wonder - does Marl really want to be hate-reading Trump articles for 6 hours every night? Is Marl okay? You might think to add a setting where Marl can enter his preferences about the content he sees: less politics, more sports, simple stuff like that. But Marl will never click through any of your hamburger menus, never change any setting to a non-default. You might think Marl just doesn’t know about the settings. You might think to make things more convenient for Marl, perhaps add a little “see less like this” button below a piece of content. Oh boy, are you ever wrong. This absolutely infuriates Marl. On the margin, the handful of pixels occupied by your well-intentioned little button replaced pixels that contained a triggering headline or a cute image of a puppy. Insufficiently stimulated, Marl throws a fit and swipes over to TikTok, never to return to your app. Your feature decreases DAUs in the A/B test. In the launch committee meeting, you mumble something about “user agency” as your VP looks at you with pity and scorn. Your button doesn’t get deployed. You don’t get your promotion. Your wife leaves you. Probably for Marl.

Yep, this is a big part of why software sucks. The product doesn’t have to be good; it just to keep attracting new users.

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