User behavior types vs. Hogwarts houses (Slytherin)

In documentation for software that covers a wide market, we – Technical Communicators – often make it our point to target an ‘average user’. You know, the one who is neither too sloth nor too attentive, interested in both the big picture and a specific check box, and honestly, this list is endless.

But the majority of users does tend to lean one way or the other and follow a different ‘content beacon’.

Being a Potterhead, I could not help associating different user behavior types with Hogwarts houses.
And guess what – they match like the Weasley twins.

Sort your users and learn how to create documentation that ticks for them!

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I don't look for help, darling. Help should look for me. Guide me because I'm fabulous. User of the year? Me, obviously.
Background image by TheLadyAvatar.

Dominating user behavior

  • Members of the elite; enjoy grand entrances and center of attention
  • Passionate about what they value and too cool for everything else
  • Scrupulous, strive for perfection in their area of expertise
  • Competitive, ambitious, extremely goal-oriented
  • Sly, street-smart, and dodgy when it comes to rules

Digital homing area

  • Business organization apps like smart calendars
  • Business connector apps like LinkedIn (premium account, of course)
  • Online shops with exclusive merchandize
  • Prestigious information portals about top trends in everything

Preferred user assistance

  • Advanced troubleshooting (because Slytherins only get into big trouble)
  • Pro tips and success stories (aiming straight for excellence, they are)
  • Personalized user assistance (‘Hello Mr. Malfoy, what can I do for you today?’)
  • Risky gamified quests (‘Use this tricky but effective 10-minute workaround to generate an output and leave the Gryffindors to struggle for hours with the default export tool’)

Specialis Revelio: who are we dealing with

First, my friend, you must know this: an honorable Slytherin is a cheating Slytherin. No wonder the first three letters here spell ‘sly’.

When in need of information, a Slytherin’s first instinct is to:
sneak a peek at the colleague’s results

get a helpful Hufflepuff to do the task

expertly trick everyone into thinking that this task is not needed, and smooth their way into doing another task they’re actually interested in.

Still, there might be a situation when all these slithery option are a no-go. Then, and only then, can you expect a Slytherin to make a grand entrance in you doc.

Homenum Revelio: what to do when they are here

Attention please!
Stop and behold!
Everyone to their positions and don’t you dare breathe. Their Slytherin Prada-wearing highness has entered the kingdom of your content because the stupid app is plain stupid (sure, the thought that they themselves may be doing something wrong will never enter their glitter-covered mind).

Their criteria are pure and simple – expecto perfecto. If they find a flaw with your content (and they will because they are obsessed with perfection), you’ll fall scandalously in their eyes. Don’t worry too much about the worldwide impact – they won’t bother to drop a line of feedback, let alone a wordy judgement call (though, between you and I, gossip among Slytherins travels faster than Firebolt).

However, if you manage to impress them, you’ll win their respect alright. Which is almost like an admission to a high-class inner circle. In other words, wizarding world or not, it does not get much cooler.

Thus, I present to you – and you only – an exclusive roadmap to content success in the Slytherin world.

Arresto Momentum: how to greet them

Slytherins are crazy about service, and the first rule of service says, the customer is always right. Wondering how it relates to documentation? Imagine a Slytherin searching your troubleshooting section for a solution to a missing Add button:

Likely search entry: ‘Add button is not there’.
Unlikely search entry: ‘cannot find Add button’.

What I mean is, their attitude would generally be like ‘someone has messed up here, and it’s definitely not me’. So buckle up, put on your best sexed-up digital smile, and right there, in your documentation opening line, apologize for any app usage inconvenience in your most slick and ‘we-are-at-your-service’ tone. And better sound honest!

Lumos Maxima: how to serve information

First of all, clearly state what every particular piece of content is about – Slytherins are on the clock. Don’t wait till the end of topic: offer the topics which they ‘may also be interested in’ right there as a popup or sidebar. After all, predicting customer needs is pretty high on the 5-star-service list.

In a conceptual/introductory type of content, refrain from abstract juggling of ideas and try to explain complex workflows in simple down-to-earth ‘pulp fiction’ notions. A few witty sarcastic side remarks – though considered inappropriate in conservative technical content – will gain the Slytherin’s appreciation: who cares about all those prim and proper instructions anyway. But be careful not to offend the tender feelings of your less brutal audience.
Image by Thomas Alan design agency.

In a procedural/instructional type of content, show the quickest and the smartest way (superlatives only) to get a result. The worst thing you can do is state a simple way to do sth (‘are you dumbing it down for me?’) or offer assistance (‘are you implying that I cannot cope on my own?’).

Try to be as specific as possible. Slytherins won’t appreciate your eloquence because – face it – they don’t want to read a memorandum of ‘Available file formats’ just for the fun of it. In fact, they are probably scanning your topic for a specific piece of info to impress an attractive co-worker in distress.

Advanced Lotion MakingOne more thing: if you’re going for the cream-of-the-crop users, make sure that your content looks presentable. I mean not just eye shade and lip gloss – apply the full mascara set to your help system skin, business presentation, or whatever it is you’re crafting, and sprinkle it with Chanel No. 5. Black is and will be the most fashionable color, so save pinkies and purples for Hufflepuffs.

Finite Incantatem: how to add a finishing touch

Have you heard of selfless deeds? Well, they haven’t, so save that ‘be a goodie, leave feedback’ slogan for the “heroes of the day” and try to tug at a materialistic stringWrite a response, get a glam wrist-band is more likely to draw a Slytherin’s attention.

An even better allure would be get a personalized glam wrist-band’, unique and tailored for their high-class sass. Nothing turns Slytherins on more than VIP-class ego-stroking attention, and nothing turns them off more than mass-produced ‘made in China’ content.

Still, the most desirable reward for Slytherins would be – tada – get a personalized glam wrist-band signed by the trendiest celebs’. You’ll be surprised how eagerly Slytherins respond to ‘red flags’ with celeb tokens on them. Easiest way to do this – capture your screenshots with Matt Damon’s user profile (downside – the legal side of the matter). Or, enter prompts like ‘be the first fabulous user to like this content’. It’s that simple and it really works.

To recap, work hard, write hot, and glitter is the answer.

Coming next – HUFFLEPUFF!


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