You are not your users

You were asked to design a website for a new client. As always, you prepared 5 samples for the customer to choose from. Come decisions time, the customer chose a design you think was not the best. It is the design you didn’t spend as much time as the others. You only spent 10 minutes on it because the presentation is 15 minutes away and you have no choice because your company promised 5 designs.

You say to yourself, “Gosh, this guy has no taste!” But it’s OK. He’s the one paying the bills.

How many times have you been in this situation?

Many designers and software developers think users are like them. Whenever they get a customer inquiry on how to do this in their webapp or software, they can’t resist saying “What?! It’s so obvious!”

As designers and developers, we should accept the truth the users are our exact opposite. We can read a stack dump, they can’t. We know what a proxy error is, they don’t. We know how to hold Ctrl-key and drag using the mouse, they would crinch at the thought of doing it. Yes, even that dude with a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology can become stupid when holding a mouse.

99.99% of all companies will say they are customer-oriented; that they design their products with usability and experience a top priority. Is it really true or is it just one of the many marketing lies?

Gather your team and ask them to find ways to improve the navigation in your webapp or lessen the time to complete a task. Chances are your team won’t get excited. After all, these are not cool stuffs.

What if you ask them to use Ajax, tags, RSS, or make your application “Web 2.0” enabled. That would get them excited and pumped-up.

4 thoughts on “You are not your users

  1. isn’t it always? i’ve experienced that so many times(asking to put a splash screen on their site and multiple flash on the main page, well ok if they’re a gaming site but they’re an IT consulting company, the so-called consultant was adamant to have it even if you explained to them that they will look like an AD heheh )

    You’re right about buzzwords, the new buzzwords will certainly get your proposal approved..

  2. When it comes to the UI, I always believe that simpler is better. Look at the list of today’s most successful web applications, they are not bloated do-everything-but-its-very-hard juggernauts.

    The problem these days is that sometimes “the client” wants complexity and bloatware as proof you aren’t slacking and wasting their money. Then when it all becomes too confusing they start talking about simplicity and ease of use. Then you get to explain to them that you can’t have bloat and easy simple apps at the same price because simplifying bloat is time-consuming e.g. expensive. Then they get annoyed, because they have crappy bloat that can do everything that nobody wants or will care to try to do.

  3. You can judge an organization how mature their understanding of websites by the way they prioritize what needs to get done. Mature organizations would top in their list issues such as usability, completing the sale, minimize support calls, and serving customers better. The immature ones would ask for the “WOW” – the kind they see in 15-second TV commercials. The immature ones don’t care about speed, clarity as long as they could see moving texts and dancing pigs on their websites.

  4. I’ve been searching for web designers who would produce 3 sample designs, and then get back to me and say:

    “We conducted a survey and 70% of your target market likes design A, 20% like design B, 5% like design C, while 5% didn’t like any of the designs. We also made a test and 5% of those who saw design A performed your desired response, 10% of those who viewed design B performed your call-to-action, while it was 12% for those who viewed design C.

    “So, which design do you prefer?”

    Sadly, I haven’t met such a web designer.

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