I was talking to the founders of Zintin recently about their iPhone app. Although they had initially expected their dominant usecase to be “keep in touch with your friends”, it rapidly became “meet nearby people”. The Zintin team did a great job of rolling with their users and evolving their product development towards the dominant use case, rather than treating it as a “user error” problem.
It reminded me of this great quote from one of the founders of IMVU, Eric Reis:
In our first year at IMVU, we thought we were building a 3D avatar chat product. It was only when we asked random people we brought in for usability tests “who do you think of as our competitors?” that we learned different. As product people, we thought of competition in terms of features. So the natural comparison, we thought, would be to other 3D avatar based products, like The Sims and World of Warcraft. But the early customers all compared it to MySpace. This was 2004, and we had never even heard of MySpace, let alone had any understanding of social networking. It required hearing customers say it over and over again for us to take a serious look, and eventually to realize that social networking was core to our business.
The moral of this story, if you disagree with your users about what your product is for, then you are wrong and your users are right. There is no such thing as “user error”.