The demographic myth

We do a large amount of user involvement in Adapt such as interviews, focus groups and other types of studies. We do this to gain insight into the behavior of our users – and to find out what role technology has in their life. And of course, to shape and place our products accordingly to the needs and wants of the target group. 
Nothing is more valuable than user involvement. However, interview techniques and prototypes all fall short if the representative test users are not within the target audience. 

Designing for age?

Traditionally, we use age as the main factor to segment a target group. But age is not always connected to behavior – especially in relation to the young and the old.
A common misconception is that the older the user, the worse the digital ability. 

Instead, we believe that digital skills are tied to other factors such as a current or former profession. Think of the traditionally perceived differences in competencies between a pensioned IT-consultant and a young hairdresser. Here the latter might be less able to decode a lot of different types of sites and digital products, even though the hairdresser is younger than the IT-consultant. 

Another example of where younger people often fall behind the older generation is when interacting with governmental institutions such as and The young generations must first learn, not only the language of governmental institutions but also expectations and responsibilities within the interaction. This is due to a learning curve with an increasing development. The more and often you interact with the governmental institutions, the better you come to an understanding what is all about.

From persona to behavioral user portraits

In Adapt we advocate on designing for users based on behavior rather than on just demographics. When working for Erhvervsstyrelsen, we created some user portraits focusing on behavior. They wanted a study focusing on segmentation and quality assurance of the target group for a new platform. Erhvervsstyrelse had already created a few categories such as 'Traditional companies with less than five employees'. However, the categories seemed to be too rigid, and the organization found it hard to use them for internal communication. 

Instead, we created behavioral portraits based on their ability to run the business side of their company, their wishes for expanding and their ability to decode complex written information.


What constitutes a hairdresser?

Because, what's a real hairdresser? Is it a woman with a small hair salon in a small province or is it an international fashion stylist – a business savvy with many shops and own shampoo-line? Are their needs the same just because they are all within the same demographic? No. They probably have more in common with other business with the same ambitions and abilities.

The same factor is in play when recruiting for user tests, focus groups, and think-aloud-test. We advise to always focus on behavior additional to the demographic divide – because often a sole focus on demographics leads to misperception and false results.

Read more about our user portraits for Erhvervsstyrelsen here.


Nanna Gelineck
Senior Insights Consultant