Content Area 5: Business Context
Content Area 6: Data
Content Area 7: Digital Environments
Content Area 8: Security

User Needs & Characteristics

Digital systems need to be used by an end user, which could be an employee or member of the public.

Users will have basic expectations of the system, which is usually defined in terms of their needs, in other words, what they want the system to do. The system will also need to cater for the type of user and their different characteristics, which will determine their ability to use the software or access the service.

In this lesson, we’ll learn about:

  1. How digital systems are used to meet user needs and ensure the quality of a product/service
  2. Understand how the characteristics of users affect the use of the digital product

1. Meeting User Needs

Let’s look at some ways technology can be used to meet user needs and guarantee quality.

Appropriate & Effective Functionality

In order for a product or service to do well, it needs to work well, and provide the features we require to perform our tasks. For example, an organisation might want to keep accurate records of its finances, which it can do through the use of an appropriate accounting software package.

It’s not just in providing specific functionality that technology helps us though. Technology can make it easier to get feedback from people who use your product or service. This feedback can help you make improvements and changes to ensure the functionality is improved and more closely meet their needs.

Reduction of Pain Points

Pain points are anything that causes us stress or frustration when we use a product or service. Technology can help us identify and fix those pain points, so users have a more positive experience.

Improved communication is one way digital can help with this, such as through chatbots and CRM software. Another way it can help is through personalisation, such as by customising an interface to a users individual needs or dynamically displaying content based on previous interactions (e.g. showing related products to previous purchases).

Accessibility Considerations

Digital technology has made it easier for people with disabilities to access information, products and services. For example, text-to-speech software can read aloud websites and documents for people who are visually impaired, and screen readers can help people who are blind navigate around digital interfaces.

Additionally, many digital products and services have features that make them more accessible to people with different abilities, such as zoom functions that make text larger or audio controls that allow people to adjust the volume.


It’s important to consider compatibility when developing digital products – will they work on all devices and operating systems? By considering these things, we can create products that everyone can enjoy.

Digital technology has helped ensure compatibility in digital products and services by allowing developers to create products that work on various devices and operating systems. For example, modern game engines have made it easy to port games to different platforms without having to heavily redevelop the game.


This is about the ability for an individual to access a product or service at any given time. Digital technology can help businesses make sure that their products and services are available whenever and wherever people want them.

For example, businesses can use online platforms like websites and cloud technology to make it easier for people to get what they need. If you store your files on a cloud storage service like OneDrive, then you’ll be able to access them on any computer as long as you have an internet connection.

Digital technology has also improved availability in terms of delivering physical products. Online shopping, automated stock control systems, and GPS technology has made it quicker and easier for people to shop and companies to deliver.

Good User Experience

This is about the overall experience an individual has when using a product or service. It requires the product/service to give an easy and enjoyable experience when it is used.

Digital technology can help achieve this through personalisation. By using advanced algorithms and analytics, we can understand our customers and adapt to their individual needs. This might be by showing content we know they’re interested in.

Some other ways it can help improve the user experience is through simplifying tasks through automation, providing clear feedback to understand what they’re done right/wrong and through using adaptive technology to be more accessible.

Cultural Awareness and Diversity

Digital technology has helped to ensure cultural awareness and diversity in digital products and services by making it easier for people to connect with others from around the world.

Through social media platforms, users can communicate with others from different cultures, learn about their customs and traditions, and even collaborate on projects. This has led to a more culturally diverse world online, where people can interact and learn from each other more meaningfully.

Another aspect of cultural awareness and diversity through digital systems is how systems can be easily adapted to other cultures. Languages can be changed quickly, user interfaces can change to meet cultural experiences (e.g. right to left text rather than left to right), and colours can be adapted according to individual cultural standards.

Further Thought

Can you think of any software updates to a game or program that have actually made the system more difficult to use? Why was that?

2. How User Characteristics Affect Digital Product Use

Let’s break down some of the most important characteristics of end users and how they can impact the technologies they use.


Different age groups tend to use different technologies in different ways.

For example, younger users are generally more comfortable with newer, more complex technologies than older users. They’re also more likely to be early adopters of new technologies.

On the other hand, older users may prefer more traditional methods or be less comfortable with change.


Different people have different skill sets, which can affect their ability to use certain technologies. It will also affect their confidence when faced with a new technology to learn it.

For example, someone who is not very good at using computers might have difficulty using an app that requires a lot of computer skills and would find it more difficult to learn to use it.

Education Level

The education level of end users can also affect how they interact with digital technologies. This might be whether someone is educated up to a further education, higher education or post-graduate level.

For example, someone with a higher education level might be more comfortable using complex websites or apps than someone with a lower education level.

Internal / External Audience

Internal audiences are employees or other members of an organisation. External audiences are those from outside the organisation, such as customers.

You might use a more complex technology for an internal audience, as you can assume they already have some background knowledge, but opt for a simpler technology for an external audience that doesn’t have much knowledge about your organisation.

Level of Technical Knowledge

Technical knowledge are the specialised skills for a particular industry. For example, the ability to program in the IT industry.

Users with low technical knowledge levels may be more comfortable using simpler technologies, while users with high technical knowledge levels may be more comfortable using more complex technologies.

Additional Needs

If your target audience is composed primarily of people with disabilities, you’ll need to make sure that any technology you select is accessible for them to use. Of course, there is a wide range of different disabilities which require different adaptations.

Some examples of common additional needs you will want to ensure technology can be adapted for include:

  • Sight loss – we can adapt to this audience through text-to-speech software.
  • Hearing loss – we can adapt to this audience by ensuring subtitles are provided for any audio or video.
  • Colour Blindness – we can adapt to this audience through a customisable colour palette.
  • Severe Mobility Issues – we can adapt to this audience through compatibility with devices such as eye controllers.

Further Thought

What kind of digital system do you prefer to use? Touchscreen or Keyboard/Mouse? Why is this?

Lesson Summary

So to summarise what we’ve learnt in this lesson:

  • Digital technology helps to create appropriate and effective functionality for products and services.
  • It also helps reduce user pain points by making it easier for them to interact with businesses and automate certain tasks.
  • Additionally, digital technology has made products and services more accessible to people with disabilities and compatible with various devices and operating systems.
  • By using digital technologies, businesses are able to improve the availability of their products and services.
  • Good user experience is essential for any product or service’s success, which is why digital technology plays such a key role in creating positive user experiences.
  • Finally, cultural awareness and diversity are important considerations when developing digital products or services.
  • Different age groups, skills, education levels, and technical knowledge levels will affect how a user interacts with a given piece of technology.
  • Age is one of the most important characteristics of end users. Different age groups tend to use different technologies in different ways.
  • Another important characteristic of end users is their skills. Different people have different skill sets, which can affect their ability to use certain technologies.
  • The education level of end users can also affect how they interact with digital technologies.
  • Another important characteristic of end users is whether they’re an internal or external audience. Internal audiences are typically made up of employees or other members who already have some level of knowledge about products or services, while external audiences are generally made up of those who don’t know much about the organisation.
  • It’s essential to consider any additional needs that your target audience might have when selecting digital technologies for them (e.g. if your target audience includes people with disabilities).