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Submission + - What is an "average" user?

rueger writes: "I'm working with a medium sized non-profit with several hundred members. We make extensive use of web resources and discussion lists. Our challenge is figuring out what level of support an "average" user needs. We like to to package help and support in ways that a actually teach end users to be self sufficient, but are struggling to decide how far that goes.

We're trying to establish a minimum skills and knowledge level that it is assumed that end users will have. Some are obvious — knowing how to surf the web in a browser and click on links. Knowing how to write and reply to e-mail. Word and Excel.

What we find though is that some things which we assume are widely known — like using CTRL-click to choose multiple items in a list — are a mystery to many users. As well, there are some people who for whatever reason just can't understand written instructions. And others who simply freeze when presented with a screen full of things that they have never seen before.

Right now we're bouncing between beginner level detail for the truly unskilled, and complaints from more experienced users that the instructions are "too long." In extreme cases we wind up phoning people and walking them though how to use our web based discussion lists. (Which admittedly are using a software package that sucks.)

So my question is: what are the minimum skills that are assumed for an "average" end user?"

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