Design like your user is drunk

Shanielle Williams
Data and Design: My Two Passions
3 min readSep 5, 2021


man at bar drink while using his phone
People photo created by freepik —

Any designer in the field will tell you that the user should be your focus when creating any product or service. Being able to understand your users’ needs is essential to designing solutions that your target audience will be able to use.

Say that you have gone through the design process: You have fully captured the user’s pain points in the empathize phase and gone through the research and findings with your team and pitched your ideas in the ideate phase. Now you are ready for the design phase where you create a solution that your users can understand.

But hold up!!

Before you sign off on your ready to go design, put yourself in your users' shoes and ask yourself this question:

Will your user be able to use your app if they are drunk?

A drunk man sitting at a bar counter
Party vector created by macrovector —

This concept essential puts accessibility at the forefront of designing and removes the assumption that your user will not need any assistance when utilizing your solution.

When someone is drunk, their cognitive skills decline. Some symptoms would include:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred Vision (loss of visual)
  • Irritability
  • Slurred speech (loss of speech)
  • Decreased balance/coordination (loss of movement) and so on.

Essentially, you will be designing for a user who may not be able to just read and follow the instructions on the screen. This approach would allow designers to address many of the pain points of groups that are usually underrepresented in the past.

These groups would include persons who speak a different language, those who are illiterate or dyslexic, and users who suffer from a temporary or permanent disability.

Adding features to your designs that allow the use of voice command, complete keyboard use, or even multiple languages go a far way to account for some of the pain points that those groups have and, as a bonus, results in your designs become more equitable.

The benefits of this approach ensure that:

  1. Your designs remain clear and simple
  2. Your focus will be on accessibility for all users.
  3. The edge cases which are usually the pain points of underrepresented groups namely, persons with disabilities and temporary impairments are also addressed.
  4. Reduces possible bias in your target audience.

Another misconception this approach address is that most UX teams design their apps with the assumption that users are fully engaged but, as even you go about your daily lives with your phone, you know that’s far from the truth: You’re watching your children or pets, in the kitchen cooking and usually bombarded with a lot of distractions.

Apart from distractions, there are those of you that live with some form of disability. Being able to create solutions that are inclusive addresses the needs of all your underrepresented users and oftentimes, becomes a beloved feature for a lot of users.

Examples of this would be:

  1. Google Assistant — allows users to send messages and call persons without having to search for the contact, helping those with visual disabilities.
  2. Vibration, chimes, and blinking lights for notifications
  3. Directions on Google Maps that help drivers on the road and the list goes on.

Moral of this story, as a designer your goal is to meet the needs of your users but to do that you must know who your users are. Your users aren’t persons who are completely focused on your app: they are persons busy with their day to day activities as well as users with disabilities, and until accessibility is accounted for in your solution and the pain points of your users have been met; your solution has not met its goal.

Best of luck designers!!



Shanielle Williams
Data and Design: My Two Passions

Tech Geek with an interest in UX Design and Data Analytics