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    For example, it is possible to adjust the white balance or auto-focus on a camera app, or make an event recurring on a calendar app. These advanced controls can be tucked further away, as the majority of users will not need to see their UI cluttered with them.

    That designers believe we should design primarily for the type of user that never creates a recurring event in their calendar app helps me understand the sorry state of consumer software much better.

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      Not so much “never”, it’s the 80/20 rule - in this example - “recurring event” may well be better classified as an “obvious” interaction. Do 80% of GCal’s billion users regularly make new recurring events? Maybe. Sadly I don’t think designers are asking these questions. So, you’re absolutely right, consumer software usability is a sorry mess.

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        The 80/20 rule is, itself, a rule of thumb, something to consider in a wider context. It’s sometimes true that the importance of a function is proportional to how often it’s accessed, but that’s not always the case. As a trivial counter-example, consider the case of an “emergency shutdown” button: it’s rarely used – ideally, never – but tucking it away someplace non-obvious is a very bad idea.

        Maybe this makes sense for GCal (I obviously don’t have access to their telemetry data). But speaking of calendaring software and recurring events in general, while it’s likely that 80% of a program’s users don’t need that, it’s also likely that the 20% who do use such an “advanced” function are users who rely heavily on their calendar tool, and presumably value its efficiency, since nobody uses calendar tools for fun. Tucking the features these users need behind all sorts of hamburger menus and intermediary windows is unhelpful to the users who are most committed, least likely to switch to other solutions, most likely to advocate for your software, and easiest to retain as paying customers. Depending on how you do it, that may also end up reducing efficiency exactly for the target group that values efficiency the most, while offering marginal usability gains to the target group that already ignores most of what’s on the home screen anyway and is likely to be swayed by competitors through little more than a marketing campaign that cleverly uses pictures of cute but slightly angry cats.

        These days, a considerable chunk of the software industry cannot really monetize the applications it offers per se. Mobile apps are very cheap, and it’s hard to get people to pay for some types of applications anymore – browsers, email, RSS clients, even word processors in many professional fields, to cite a few examples. Companies that find themselves in this kerfuffle certainly need to optimise their designs “for the 80%” and attach zero weight to “the 20%”, because that’s where user conversion is more likely to happen, and if you’re primarily relying on monetising user accounts (through advertising, sponsorships or whatever) and low-tier paid subscriptions (with minimal features), user conversion and low-tier customer retention, rather than heavily-invested, loyal, long-term customers, are your primary money printing machines. But IMHO we shouldn’t mistake the principles used to design this kind of software for universal design principles, which result in good interfaces wherever you apply them.

        (Edit: just to be clear, I’m not discounting the 80/20 rule nor your idea of applying it, and especially not the way it’s applied by GCal, since it’s unlikely that, after thinking about it for of two minutes, I can outmatch Google’s marketing team, which has access to data that I don’t have, and obviously has to be primarily concerned with the question of how to bring more money, not how to make a better calendaring tool. I just wanted to add some nuance to the way the 80/20 rule is considered. I think modern UX design is getting increasingly dogmatic and I like to poke at it once in a while :-) ).

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          Thanks for this excellent, well considered reply. I find myself strongly agreeing with all you’ve written.