Working in UX has taught me one thing: Never underestimate a user’s will to take shortcuts then question why something doesn’t work.
It makes sense to talk to and, most importantly, listen to a user to find out their needs (and wants, wishes and desires.)
It makes sense to collaborate with the user in the design phase, and it makes sense to let them look at and react to half-finished designs to see if they are moving in the right direction.
Very rarely do I get a negative response from our clients when I tell them that we really should do these things. Everyone agrees.
What happens next however, is that we often go our merry way to design something without involving the user much. The result? Lots of iterations, versions, sprint revisits and ultimately a sense that the design could have been better but we can’t really put our finger on it where it went sideways. Well, I know: BECAUSE WE DIDN’T INVOLVE THE CUSTOMER/USER SYSTEMATICALLY THROUGHOUT THE DESIGN PROCESS! Yes, I’d like to shout it out sometimes. It makes too much business sense to do this or else it starts to border on unprofessional practices if you don’t. There should be an insurance claim one day to state that if you can’t prove that you involved the user and customer in a systematic way during the design process, you will be sued under the ‘errors and omissions’ category. It has become that serious. And it’s easily preventable.
If you don’t involve the user during design, you did this deliberately. Could it be because if you did involve humans, the resulting product design wouldn’t necessarily be ‘yours’ anymore? You lost the chance to shine, to show off your design prowess and claim you’re the ‘inventor of instant messenger service ABC on LinkedIn? Or could it be because of fear of the unknown? What if the user will tell me something I didn’t think of? That could feel like users can be more creative than I am, or worse, I can fail! I’m not as smart as I think I am or my peers.”
Ask yourself if we really checked our ego at the door for our designs? If we’d be a little happier knowing that design really is a team effort and not a one-person job? It can be very fulfilling to share, to acknowledge other people’s thoughts and ideas and embrace that there is something new to learn in every project. Even from those simple customers and users.
I’m often left with a feeling that the pushback to not involving the customer/user during design ultimately stems from a deeper desire to stay in control of the design. To pull all of the strings to analyse the problem to its conclusion rather than synthesize the design from its parts – including user research input. This desire for control often seems stronger than the “out there” opportunity to get things right-er by letting a user be involved in the design process. Because that is what it is in the end; a ludicrously missed opportunity to get it right.
Tedde van Gelderen is President at Akendi, a firm dedicated to creating intentional experiences through end-to-end experience design. To learn more about Akendi, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.akendi.com.
Akendi is a product strategy, user experience design and usability research firm. We are passionate about the creation of intentional experiences – whether those involve digital products, physical products, mobile, service or bricks-and-mortar interactions. We work shoulder-to-shoulder to optimize the experiences you deliver. Akendi Corporate Overview (PDF).
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