Nurses as information systems end users

In product development, an end user (sometimes end-user)[a] is a person who ultimately uses or is intended to ultimately use a product.[1][2][3] The end user stands in contrast to users who support or maintain the product,[4] such as sysops, system administrators, database administrators,[5] information technology (IT) experts, software professionals, and computer technicians. End users typically do not possess the technical understanding or skill of the product designers,[6] a fact easily overlooked and forgotten by designers: leading to features creating low customer satisfaction.[2] In information technology, end users are not customers in the usual sense—they are typically employees of the customer.[7] For example, if a large retail corporation buys a software package for its employees to use, even though the large retail corporation was the customer that purchased the software, the end users are the employees of the company, who will use the software at work.


End users are one of the three major factors contributing to the complexity of managing information systems. The end user's position has changed from a position in the 1950s (where end users did not interact with the mainframe; computer experts programmed and ran the mainframe) to one in the 2010s where the end user collaborates with and advises the management information system and Information Technology department about his or her needs regarding the system or product. This raises new questions, such as: Who manages each resource?, What is the role of the MIS Department? and What is the optimal relationship between the end-user and the MIS Department?[8]


The concept of end-user first surfaced in the late 1980s and has since then raised many debates. One challenge was the goal to give both the user more freedom, by adding advanced features and functions (for more advanced users) and adding more constraints (to prevent a neophyte user from accidentally erasing an entire company's database).[9] This phenomenon appeared as a consequence of consumerization of computer products and software. In the 1960s and 1970s, computer users were generally programming experts and computer scientists. However, in the 1980s, and especially in the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2000s, everyday, regular people began using computer devices and software for personal and work use. IT specialists needed to cope with this trend in various ways. In the 2010s, users now want to have more control over the systems they operate, to solve their own problems, and be able to customize the systems to suit their needs. The apparent drawbacks were the risk of corruption of the systems and data the users had control of, due to their lack of knowledge on how to properly operate the computer/software at an advanced level.[10]

For companies to appeal to the user, it took primary care to accommodate and think of end-users in their new products, software launches, and updates. A partnership needed to be formed between the programmer-developers and the everyday end users so both parties could maximize the use of the products effectively.[11] A major example of the public's effects on end user's requirements were the public libraries. They have been affected by new technologies in many ways, ranging from the digitalization of their card catalog, the shift to e-books, e-journals, and offering online services. Libraries have had to undergo many changes in order to cope,[12] including training existing librarians in Web 2.0 and database skills, to hiring IT and software experts.

End user documentation

1980s-era personal computer with end-user documentation
NATO official and Afghan colonel going through end-user documentation to transfer control of barracks to the Afghan army in 2009

The aim of end user documentation (e.g., manuals and guidebooks for products) is to help the user understand certain aspects of the systems and to provide all the answers in one place.[13] A lot of documentation is available for users to help them understand and properly use a certain product or service. Due to the fact that the information available is usually very vast, inconsistent or ambiguous (e.g., a user manual with hundreds of pages, including guidance on using advanced features), many users suffer from an information overload. Therefore, they become unable to take the right course of action. This needs to be kept in mind when developing products and services and the necessary documentation for them.[14]

Well-written documentation is needed for a user to reference. Some key aspects of such a documentation are:[13]

At times users do not refer to the documentation available to them due to various reasons, ranging from finding the manual too large or due to not understanding the jargon and acronyms it contains. In other cases, the users may find that the manual makes too many assumptions about a user having pre-existing knowledge of computers and software, and thus the directions may skip over these initial steps (from the users' point of view). Thus, frustrated user may report false problems because of their inability to understand the software or computer hardware. This in turn causes the company to focus on perceived problems instead of focusing on the actual problems of the software.[15]


See also: User (computing)

In the 2010s, there is a lot of emphasis on user's security and privacy. With the increasing role that computers are playing in people's lives, people are carrying laptops and smartphones with them and using them for scheduling appointments, making online purchases using credit cards and searching for information. These activities can potentially be observed by companies, governments or individuals, which can lead to breaches of privacy, identity theft, by, blackmailing and other serious concerns. As well, many businesses, ranging from small business startups to huge corporations are using computers and software to design, manufacture, market and sell their products and services, and businesses also use computers and software in their back office processes (e.g., human resources, payroll, etc.). As such, it is important for people and organizations to need know that the information and data they are storing, using, or sending over computer networks or storing on computer systems is secure.

However, developers of software and hardware are faced with many challenges in developing a system that can be both user friendly, accessible 24/7 on almost any device and be truly secure. Security leaks happen, even to individuals and organizations that have security measures in place to protect their data and information (e.g., firewalls, encryption, strong passwords). The complexities of creating such a secure system come from the fact that the behaviour of humans is not always rational or predictable. Even in a very-well secured computer system, a malicious individual can telephone a worker and pretend to be a private investigator working for the software company, and ask for the individual's password, a dishonest process called phishing. As well, even with a well-secured system, if a worker decides to put the company's electronic files on a USB drive to take them home to work on them over the weekend (against many companies' policies), and then loses this USB drive, the company's data may be compromised. Therefore, developers need to make systems that are intuitive to the user in order to have information security and system security.[16]

Another key step to end user security is informing the people and employees about the security threats and what they can do to avoid them or protect themselves and the organization. Clearly underlining, the capabilities and risks makes users more aware and informed whilst they are using the products.

Some situations that could put the user at risk are:

Even if the security measures in place are strong, the choices the user makes and his/her behavior have a major impact on how secure their information really is. Therefore, an informed user is one who can protect and achieve the best security out of the system they use.[17] Because of the importance of end-user security and the impact it can have on organizations the UK government set out a guidance for the public sector, to help civil servants learn how to be more security aware when using government networks and computers. While this is targeted to a certain sector, this type of educational effort can be informative to any type of user. This helps developers meet security norms and end users be aware of the risks involved.[18] Reimers and Andersson have conducted a number of studies on end-user security habits and found that the same type of repeated education/training in security best practices can have a marked effect on the perception of compliance with good end-user network security habits, especially concerning malware and ransomware.[19]


In end-user license agreements, the end user is distinguished from the value-added reseller, who installs the software or the organization that purchases and manages the software.[20][failed verification]

Certain American defense-related products and information require export approval from the United States Government under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations and Export Administration Regulations.[21] In order to obtain a license to export, the exporter must specify both the end user and the end use for undertaking an end-user certificate.[22]

In the UK, there exist documents that accompany licenses for products named in the end user undertaking statements.[clarification needed][23]

See also


  1. ^ When used as an adjective, end-user is generally hyphenated; when used as a noun, end user is left unhyphenated. Thus, "good end-user experience" versus "good experience to the end user".


  1. ^ Dictionary of Computer and Internet Terms. Barron's Business Guides (8 ed.). Hauppauge, New York: Barron's Educational Series. 2003. p. 171. ISBN 978-0764121661. OCLC 50480181. the person ultimately intended to use a product
  2. ^ a b Howe, Denis (1997-03-29). "FOLDOC entry for "end-user"". London. Retrieved 2015-06-28. The person who uses a computer application, as opposed to those who developed or it.
  3. ^ Legal Information Institute. "U.S. Code § 8541 - Definitions". U.S. Code. Ithaca, New York: Cornell Law School. Retrieved 2015-06-28. The term "end-user", with respect to a good, service, or technology, means the person that receives and ultimately uses the good, service, or technology.
  4. ^ FIPS Task Group on Database Management System Standards (1979). Recommendations for Database Management System Standards. Washington, D.C.: National Bureau of Standards. p. 58. OCLC 6862471. The end users are persons who perform the application functions. End users include "parametric" and generalized function users, but they are not system support personnel.
  5. ^ Shepherd, John C. (1990). Database Management: Theory and Application. Homewood, Illinois: Irwin Professional Publishing. p. 20. ISBN 978-0256078299. OCLC 20491157.
  6. ^ O'Neil, Patrick (1994). Database Principles Programming Performance. San Francisco: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers. pp. 4–5. ISBN 978-1558602199. OCLC 30777731. One of the most important features of a DBMS is that relatively inexperienced users, called end users, are empowered to retrieve information from the database. The user poses a query at the terminal keyboard, requesting the database system to display the answer on a terminal screen or on a printed sheet.
  7. ^ Chrissis, Mary Beth; Konrad, Mike; Shrum, Sandy (2011). CMMI for Development: Guidelines for Process Integration and Product Improvement. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Addison-Wesley. p. 581. ISBN 9780321711502. OCLC 884168009. A party that ultimately uses a delivered product or that receives the benefit of a delivered service. (See also "customer".) End users may or may not also be customers (who can establish and accept agreements or authorize payments).
  8. ^ Rainer Jr., R. Kelly; Prince, Brad; Cegielski, Casey (2014). Introduction to Information Systems. Supporting and Transforming Businesses (Fifth ed.). Wiley. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-1-118-67436-9.
  9. ^ LUPTON, CAROL (1998-02-01). "User Empowerment or Family Self-Reliance? The Family Group Conference Model". The British Journal of Social Work. 28 (1): 107–128. doi:10.1093/oxfordjournals.bjsw.a011302. JSTOR 23714792.
  10. ^ "Can IT Cope With Empowered End-Users?". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-11-03.
  11. ^ Kappelman, Leon A; Guynes, Carl Stephen (1995). "End-user training & empowerment". Journal of Systems Management. 46 (5). Cleveland: 36. ProQuest 199819277.
  12. ^ Seidler‐de Alwis, Ragna; Fühles‐Ubach, Simone (2010). "Success factors for the future of information centres, commercial and public libraries: a study from Germany". Interlending & Document Supply. 38 (3): 183–188. doi:10.1108/02641611011072387.
  13. ^ a b "10 Examples of Great End User Documentation". Retrieved 2015-11-03.[self-published source?]
  14. ^ Strother, Judith B.; Ulijn, Jan M.; Fazal, Zohra (2012-01-01). Strother, Judith B.; Ulijn, Jan M.; Fazal, Zohra (eds.). Information Overload: An International Challenge to Professional Engineers and Technical Communicators. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. pp. 1–12. doi:10.1002/9781118360491.ch1. ISBN 9781118360491.
  15. ^ Wilkinson, Paul Johnston (2003). End-user documentation (Doctoral). Durham theses, Durham University. pp. 2–6.
  16. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey M.; Stam, Kathryn R.; Mastrangelo, Paul; Jolton, Jeffrey (2005-03-01). "Analysis of end user security behaviors". Computers & Security. 24 (2): 124–133. doi:10.1016/j.cose.2004.07.001.
  17. ^ Tribelhorn, Ben (2007). "End user security" (PDF). Computer Security. Harvey Mudd College. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  18. ^ "End User Devices Security Guidance: Introduction – GOV.UK". Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  20. ^ "What is END USER?". Black's Law Dictionary. 2012-10-19. Retrieved 2015-06-28.
  21. ^ "Defense trade controls overview" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State. Retrieved 2015-06-28.
  22. ^ "Nontransfer and use certificate" (PDF). Washington, D.C.: United States Department of State. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-10-27. Retrieved 2015-06-28.
  23. ^ "Frequently asked questions on End-User Undertakings | Find Laws, Legal Information, News & Solicitors". Findlaw UK. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-11-04.