When building a public facing environment for customers’ use, the importance of membership should not be overlooked. Making the data available to any user is relatively simple; however there is a 99.99% chance that the users of your system have different wants and needs for everyday use and not everyone will use the system in the same way.

Some classic examples of this are companies and individuals on networking environments (such as LinkedIn & Facebook), or departments of staff using the same system internal system (such as Microsoft Dynamics CRM).

As a high level outsider you’d be forgiven for a statement such as ‘all of our customers use System XYZ’, whereas in reality the system is very different for each and every individual user.

To create a viable solution you need to consider the two points;

  1. Membership exists on two levels; your customer base as a whole and your individual users, you need to take into account the overall aim of the solution but also keep in mind the individual user.
  2. Who are your exceptions?

Some ideas may be suitable for 90% of your customers but there may be an exceptional 10% that require different which can significantly impact your implementation technique.

Good examples of this come into play with numbers and their extremes; if the average user has 5 results on one page then it may seem good to display all results in one area, however what if the last 10% of users have 1000 results and you apply the same rule? Are you going to ignore these users and give them a worse user experience which could possibly render the system unusable for them, and give your organisation a bad reputation, or are you going to put something in place to cater for everyone? It’s ultimately your choice.