UX Design: Putting users first

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A user experience can go two ways.

The first way is the one you design.

With the first way you do research, build personas, do user interviews. You’re constantly testing, measuring and making adjustments. With this way, you know your users, your audience, your customers, etc… With this way, they use the design, and they appreciate the work you’re doing for them. They might even be extremely satisfied with your site, app or product and return time and again, with enthusiasm, because they know you care and are trying to make the most of their time.

User experience can go another way.

The second way is the one that has no design.

People need to use your site, app or product, but you do no research and give no consideration to the user; there are no personas, or user interviews. You don’t know your users, you underestimate them and you don’t value their time. You know that they can get the tasks done, because they’ve found workarounds, and for those that can’t we chalk it up to “user error” and write it off.

Nobody wants to do it the second way, but sadly, this is still how many organizations operate. A time is coming when this organization will be moved to the margins, and eventually discarded entirely, by others that are more enthusiastic, more energetic and more service-oriented, in fact it’s already happening.

Which way do you want to take?

The privilege of service

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Today, I began thinking about a blog post that I wrote onmy mattborghi.com website back in 2009 – The tool of choice, the privilege of service – It feels like a dog’s age since I wrote down those words, and it was well before the idea of ‘user experience design’ was getting used as much as it does today (corroberated by Google Trends, below), but the ideas there were as true then as they are now.

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Let me set the stage…

Google was the king of search, kind of like they are now. Microsoft had just released Bing and they were working very hard to knock Google off the search mountain. Many folks thought that they would succeed. As a heavy Google user then, well before mobile/Android ubiquity, I didn’t think Microsoft would be able to pull it off.

Back then, I wrote:

The thing that’s easy to forget is Google did next to no marketing for their search (interesting Salon article from 1999 that touches on this a bit, as well as a 1998 Cnet article here). I know for me, back in 1999 or 2000, numerous people recommended that I use Google, as I had been a big user of Yahoo! for everything. Eventually, Google became my search tool of choice, not just for me, but for a lot of folks. Was it because it worked well? Was it because it was lean and uncluttered? Was it because it was quick? Honestly, it’s probably some combination, but I know that value that Google offered came to me through word-of-mouth, and when I tried the tool, it delivered as promised. It was no frills, just a simple tool that worked well.

What I wrote here really is the essence of what user experience design is all about. Google worked well, it was lean, uncluttered and quick; It wasn’t bogged down with ads or Flash graphics… It just worked, quickly and the results were good. Google understood user experience and user-centered design, whether intuitively, or otherwise, and that was the tool that they brought to the marketplace.

This isn’t new news, but rather a history lesson, of sorts, to remember the roots of user experience and the benefits of user-centered design.

More from 2009:

Again, Google did very little marketing; they put something out there that worked, and people came to it. Clearly, they knew what people wanted, and how to add value… to serve is a privilege, and if your tool is chosen, then it’s bonus and bonus! Create the tool of choice, and cherish the privilege of service.

The fact is any company that stops thinking about, or doesn’t consider their, customer is going to go out of business; whether they’re selling Web services or hot dogs…

As true today, in 2016, as it was in 2009, I’m reminded that as a designer and then a design manager, my goal was always to ensure that we were serving the users, to ensure that we were delivering the best possible user and customer experience possible by delivering the best possible solution. That means that you have to be conservative and not just jump on every new trend. Try things out and see what works. Of course, there’s a balance between this and analysis paralysis, but you don’t want to be constantly throwing new tools at your users or your customers… vet the tools with research and always try to undertake a user-centered design approach. It’s not always easy, as simplicity is almost always complicated, especially when you’re working with pre-web companies, but the privilege to serve is a great and noble pursuit. And if you get your chance, it just might make you one of the richest and most successful organizations in the world.