Personality and usability

group Masha Danilova
Photo courtesy of Masha Danilova

I love to categorize. It’s arguably not a good habit, but it makes me think I understand more than I do. Groping around on the increasingly interactive Web, I keep bumping into two types of users. People who love to explore, are fascinated by variety, and don’t care to be limited by anything remotely proprietary or closed are also the people who resist hierarchies and confinement. On the other hand, those who are comforted by rituals and familiarity are inclined to congregate and identify themselves as groups, which can seem quaint or exclusive to outsiders.

When I’m required to register on a site, it feels like the first step toward joining a group, which is a bit of a deterrent for me. Groups sometimes employ unwritten protocols or use imposing jargon to deflect casual participation. Once accepted as a member, a person can feel protected or even privileged. It’s an adaptive strategy, but it can also tend to promote hostility toward non-members.

Avoiding groups is a challenge. Those who try may gain breadth of knowledge at the expense of finesse. They may discover new things more readily and reject what they see as arbitrary cultural barriers. They aren’t necessarily wiser or happier, just different.

People choose how to spend their time, online or offline, according to their personality types. I haven’t read any new research indicating a unilateral personality type is evolving.

Variations are clearly still useful.

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