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Dominira Saul

Dominira Saul

Akendi Alumnus

The Trials of Boaty McBoatface: Achieving balance between customers, users and business

At the time of writing this blog I am facing a real dilemma, nay even an existential crisis.  I am torn between addressing two pressing and hyper-relevant events that will forever go down in history as defining moments of our age.

Do I write about:

  1. Boaty McBoatface or
  2. Tesla Model 3?

I am wracked by indecision.

I can guess what you’re asking yourself right now…. What does Boaty McBoatface and the Tesla 3 have to do with UX?  Well at least the Tesla Model 3 has a screen and buttons, at least the Tesla has a user interface, but Boaty?

I consider Boaty (we’re on a first name basis), and the Tesla Model 3 to be two side of what might possibly be the same UX coin.  My faithful readers might remember some time ago when I railed against the Tesla Model S sedan for its touch-screen interface, but seeing the new affordable model 3 has caused me a significant degree of dissonance.  It is a beautiful car, environmentally friendly, with many cool features.  However there is the small matter of the console.  So… I’ve already opined on how dangerous it could be to take your eyes off the road to adjust some setting, or change a song (which you’d have to do because there is no haptic feedback), but now let us consider the effects of removing the entire instrument cluster and putting all that data on said central console… I love the car, I really do, but Elon and his designers are making it hard for me.

Now.  On to Boaty McBoatface. Recently the National Environment Research Council in the UK launched a contest to name their latest research vessel.  As of the time when this post was written the suggestion that has received the most votes (115,869 of them) is none other than the Royal Research Ship Boaty McBoatface. They should have know better.  The British sense of humour is famous, after all that is the country that brought us Mr. Bean, Ali G and Monty Python. Now a serious research vessel, doing serious research is in real danger of being forever known as Boaty McBoatface.

So what do either of these incidents have to do with UX? Fair question. Well hopefully the misadventures of the Natural Environment Research Council will highlight the dangers of asking users what they want versus examining the needs of users.  In the case of the Tesla Model 3, we see technology that looks cool and that users consider to be cool being used, when it may in fact be detrimental from a safety point of view.  In one case we have users getting what they want at the expense of the organisation’s business goals, and in the other case we have users getting what they want potentially at their own expense.  

The best user experiences come from a careful balancing of organisational goals, customer needs and user needs.  Coming to a deep understanding of these three elements shouldn’t be left of to chance or popular opinion.  In order to achieve this delicate balance the proper research must be applied at the appropriate time.  

At Akendi we’ve spent almost a decade improving on our product development process, which when applied correctly seek to understand and objectively validate those same business goals, customers and user needs.

Personally I think a research vessel named Boaty McBoatface puts a whimsical spin on science that could be leveraged to attract and engage young people.  I just hope NERC sees things the same way (I also hope they paint a face on the ship).  As far as the Tesla goes, I hope that no one tries to adjust their air conditioning while hurtling down the freeway at ludicrous speed (which as a real option on those cars).  

Dominira Saul

Dominira Saul

Akendi Alumnus


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Akendi is a human experience design firm, leveraging equal parts experience research and creative design excellence. We provide strategic insights and analysis about customer and user behaviour and combine this knowledge with inspired design. The results enable organizations to improve effectiveness, engage users and provide remarkable customer experiences to their audiences.