“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want” This great quote by Steve Jobs, is what I want to write about, as it is a topic dear to my heart.

Let’s not kid ourselves. Our users (customers) are not designers. Most of the time they are not even domain experts, and even if they do know a domain inside out, they invariably lack the expertise to convert that domain knowledge into good design solutions. Yet time and time again I come across the expectation that the answers will be provided by our customers via feedback forms from our apps, websites, or focus groups.

There is a lot of danger lurking in “let’s just ask our users”. In today’s ever changing competitive digital environment we need to learn from our customers through observation — how are they using and working with our products.

Some feedback may just be a wish-list, and therefore we must be careful with it.

We do not want to end up with a product like Homer’s car.

What I am trying to convey is that it’s a bit like the relationship between a parent and their children (or child). As a parent we put our children at the centre of our child-centred-design universe. Our children always come first, from deciding what to do on a rainy day, to thinking about what food to buy for the week. Everything we do is based around the needs of our children. But what we don’t do is let the children tell us what to do. Ultimately we’re the boss. We’re the grown up and we know best (at least this is the illusion we want to create). This should be our approach to users. By this I don’t mean that we should treat our users like children, but that we should take the time to understand them, work out what is best for them, take them out for fun days to the beach, but never blindly follow their demands. Of course we should absolutely include users in the design process, get their feedback, test out ideas and prototypes, get their input, but never forget that we as a team are the design experts, not them. We are the people driving the design process, not them.

Here is an entertaining 3 minute video clip of Alan Cooper, UX guru, father of Visual Basic and author of the classic book The Inmates Are Running The Asylum (still a great read), on why users are not a good source of software. I do think that Alan is being a little facetious in the video when he says that users shouldn’t have ‘anything to do with it’, but I hope that you can see Alan’s point, and I for one couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of what he is saying.

When for instance we receive feedback about one of our digital products we have to expect that these are just suggestions for improvement rather than any big issues they have come across. We have to absolutely assume that before going life with our product, user research, user testing and expert reviews have taken out all UX issues. Any customer generated suggestions for improvements should be studied carefully by our experts, and be exposed to the all important “Why”.

It’s all about how and when we involve the user in order for us as teams to create the best possible product for our customers.

This is my first UX post here, and I would appreciate your feedback. Let me know what you think.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.