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Aviation Design and Certification: Who Are Your Intended Users and Does it Really Matter?

Before you delve into the design of a new system, you are likely aware that you need to define your intentions for the system. This includes not only the intended function and the intended context, but also a clear description of your intended users.

Intended users—the type of people who you will use your system—will greatly impact design decisions that you make early in the process. If you’ve ever gone to parent-teacher night and been forced to sit in your kindergartner’s chair, you’ve already got a good idea of what we mean when we talk about how defining intended users will impact design decisions.

Why define your intended users?

Defining your intended users means that you will be more likely to make design decisions that allow your users to operate the system to achieve its intended function effectively, efficiently, and comfortably. (Think about that kindergarten classroom chair.) When you fully consider your users before you design your system, you will likely experience some worthwhile benefits. Instead of having users who are frustrated and prone to errors, your users are more likely to be…

  • Productive
  • Confident in your system
  • Satisfied

In addition, by defining your intended users before you begin the design process, you will likely reduce design and operation costs. In short, creating a clear, comprehensive definition of your intended users creates a win-win for both you and your users.

What characteristics should you consider?

When you are defining your intended users, you will want to consider characteristics that are likely to influence how people will use and interact with your system.  Not only should you take into account the physiological characteristics, but also you need to consider the psychological characteristics of your intended users.  You will want to define the demographics of your users, their general capabilities and limitations, and their cultural background. Since we are talking about designing systems for aircraft, you can really narrow your focus by digging into the operation-specific characteristics, and function-specific characteristics of your intended pilot users.

Where can you find more information about defining intended users?

For more information about defining intended users, look for the upcoming launch of Course 2 in our Human Factors and Aviation Design and Certification Series on This course will not only provide you with the knowledge you need to define your intended users, but also it will also train you on how to use a step-by-step process for creating a comprehensive document that defines your users. This final product can be used as you navigate both the design and certification processes.

If you’re interested in getting your training started right away, check out Course 1: Defining and Documenting Intended Function (the predecessor to Defining and Documenting Intended Users), on Also, check out our blog series on and

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