User behavior types vs. Hogwarts houses (Hufflepuff)

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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Guide-and-seek! Always sensitive, context-sensitive. Wondering how the wizard window in the application opens without the 'Alohomor' spell...
Background image by TheLadyAvatar.

Dominating user behavior

  • Helpful, good-natured, dependable
  • Down-to-earth, appreciate simple things in life
  • Calm, patient, attentive
  • Persistent and hard-working
  • Good at finding things (the needle in the haystack doesn’t stand a chance)

Digital homing area

  • Cooking, handicraft, and home design portals (what can I say, they’re masters of household matters)
  • Bookmarking tools like Pinterest or Delicious (nothing ever gets lost)
  • Data storage and management tools (yep, nothing)

Preferred user assistance

  • Software simulations and augmented reality (getting as close to real conditions as possible)
  • Gamified and personalized e-learnings (bring back the Clippy!)
  • Community forums and blogs (the more, the merrier)

Background image by Photobucket.

Well hello there!

Step in, step in, the tea is almost ready, and I happen to have freshly baked cookies. You must be hungry from the trip. You can put your coat right here. Are you sure your feet are not cold? I could get you some slippers. Perhaps, you want something else to eat or drink? Wait, I think I still have a slice of my grandma’s special cherry pie.

Feeling warm and cozy? You should. This post is about Hufflepuffs,
after all. 🙂

These good-natured guys would really appreciate a warm and homey atmosphere, and here’s how you can create it in your documentation.


I hope it’s not too much to digest all at once. Let’s tackle one flavor at a time, shall we?


Hufflepuffs are avid appreciators of simple, down-to-earth things and notions. They have a good eye for detail but may struggle with the big picture.

That’s why your biggest challenge would be to explain abstract concepts or complex workflows. The best approach is to use associations, examples, and parallels. Just like in this superb presentation about Outsourcing partnership being like ballroom dancing.

Contrary to a well-nourished notion that Hufflepuffs are not that IQ-ish, they get along just fine because:

  • Unlike the slightly sassy Slytherins, the Hufflepuffs are able to fully focus on something else than their fingernails.
  • Unlike the really messy Gryffindors, the Hufflepuffs have enough attention span to keep practicing until they achieve a result.

That’s why Hufflepuffs are actually very good at getting the hang of things. Therefore, no dumbing down – just use simple unadorned language to describe complex things and double your explanations with graphics.

Image by They Draw and Cook.

When designing e-learnings or follow-up assignments (and you can count on Hufflepuffs to do them), give them enough time to process the info or complete a task – they fare better when they are allowed to learn things at their own pace, nice and slow.

And one more friendly piece of advice – remember about human comforts: make sure your tasks require the use of one hand only and leave the other hand completely free.
What for? Cookies, duh!


Hufflepuffs can be kind of self-conscious in dealing with an information gap, so it’s important that you support them every step of the way. How it’s done?

  1. Break down the info into small chunks with palpable results – this will help create a sense of achievement.
  2. If something didn’t go as expected, offer to try again, but don’t force it.

yes henry
Image by Jane Maduke.

Hufflepuffs positively react to encouragements and reassurances, so don’t be shy to dish them out in bits and pieces, for example, when the page is inactive for a while.

Another good idea is to set a clear goal and visualize the learning progress.

new _goalcourse_4
Image by Busuu.

Rewards are also a good strategy. Try to make them unexpected: give a collectible (berry, badge, whatever) right after the first click. Or, like Coursera, offer post-course engagement: ‘You did awesome! Now, you can use your expertise to help others improve!’

But hey, don’t overkill it: like the legendary Tolkien’s hobbits, Hufflepuffs may appear mild and mellow (especially when well-fed), but they don’t like to be spoken down to.


According to Hufflepuffs, there is no such thing as an unimportant detail. That’s why, in procedural content, you should thoroughly guide them through all the motions.

For example, when listing the fields of a dialog box, don’t leave out any fields, even if they seem self-explanatory. True, the ‘File name’ field cannot stand for much other than ‘the title of the file’. However, you can increase the value of your description by adding more details: ‘unique title of the file (maximum 255 characters)’.

Do not worry about stating the obvious. Look at the situation that way – leaving out the ‘Name’ field completely from your doc is risky: the users may assume that the field gets autofilled or is not needed in that particular situation at all.

Remember – when Hufflepuffs get into deep trouble, they will rely on you to get them out, so double-check that you cover all possible scenarios, especially those where something can potentially go wrong. It’s going to be worth your while: if you win a Hufflepuff’s trust, they will become your most grateful and loyal readers.

If you’re worried that your instructions may get too long and therefore boring, don’t. As it appears, Hufflepuffs don’t need flashy colors or market traps to read your docs – they appreciate any kind of assistance and will probably consume your instruction to the last crumble.

Important! What may be a tiresome routine for anyone other is actually a welcome pattern for Hufflepuff, and any variations can throw them off the beaten track. Therefore, choose one style of content structuring and wording, and follow this style across all of your content.

For example, the infographic below illustrates four different steps by following the same pattern: step name > icon > visualization > title > text.

Image by Freepik.


Hufflepuffs are extremely people-oriented and don’t care much for abstract notions or sciences. A really good way to arouse their interest is to make character-centric content.

Image by LinguaLeo.

Another thing that will keep them going is a strong community. Ratings and feedback system, online chat, forums, social networks – use them all and use them well.

That’s it, I guess.

Use these four principles – simplicity, encouragement, completeness, personification – and piece of cake guaranteed. 🙂

Coming next – RAVENCLAW!!


3 thoughts on “User behavior types vs. Hogwarts houses (Hufflepuff)

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