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The User is Out

The User is Out

This week, I only have one only wish. Every time I get called out in a meeting as the "user experience expert" whose decision tips the scale, that person will receive a mild electric shock.

Or, to be more poetic: The mythical users whose behavior we are debating at that very moment will magically stampede through the conference room door, grab up all the dry-erase markers, and demonstrate their intent when using that Web system without any dilly-dallying. A user experience designer is no easy substitute for direct user input. Sure, if you've been doing this for eons, patterns emerge that you can follow. But for designers that work on a diverse set of projects, many of those patterns don't quite repeat... especially when clients come to you with a vision for "the next big thing."

Let's get more users into my projects before we put the systems live and have the run of the house, even informally. They are much smarter than we are, especially in aggregate. They would be able to answer all of the burning questions I have in mind right at this very moment, such as:

"How do you most like to share a Web page with a friend? How long will you play with an exploratory site until you get tired/bored/run away? If you see a link to a site you're interested in, how long will you really wait until it loads up all the bells and whistles?" I am always amazed when, in the face of highly adverse deadlines, we can get a few users through the door and generate a few major insights that ensure the quality of a good portion of a Web system.

I'm not so interested in what my opinion is anymore. I want to hear what users have to think. Any designer who's gone through a ton of user testing gets a strong education in the irrationality of our profession -- I'm probably only better than half-right on the tough, completely novel problems. That's good if you're a batter in the American League, but for meeting top-flight interaction goals, not so much. Users need to at least partially bless novelty.

It's tempting to ask for the title of something more like "User Behavior Facilitator" in those meetings where we need to demonstrate competency. "I don't design experiences. I channel people's foibles into an Internet flow, keeping my finger on the pulse of what irrational actions are likely in the midst of an illogical world. And I do it by watching people act, and encouraging them to interact. If I do a good job, they stick around."


Emily Veras

I'm a regular reader of your blog , and I adore it , You don't get comments much but you certainly deserve them. Here's a thanks for interesting news , experiences and advice , It would be awesome to have an actual conversation , Do you tweet?

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