We have been conditioned to believe certain things about different groups of people because of how they have been portrayed in the different types of media that we consume.
While networking with a senior designer, we talked about a project that they did that revolved around creating a product that would help those aged 55 and older connect with resources that they need. One of the first questions I asked about the brief after hearing that was “Were you limited to building a digital product, or could you have built something that was not digital?”
The designer responded and said that through their interviews with potential users, they found that those in their 50s and 60s were more technologically savvy than they are depicted. Many of them knew how to use various devices to search for things; they just need more time than Millennials and Gen Z to learn how to use it.
I assumed that because they are older, it would not be as useful to build a digital experience for them because they would not how to use it. This assumption is based on what I see in sitcoms; however, when I think about my parents and their friends, they’re just as glued to their smart devices as I am, and sometimes know how to use certain apps better than I do!
This realization brought to light how important it is to remember not to let my assumptions based on who I believe the user is frame what I design, and how important user research, especially interviews.
By interacting with users, we better understand what their needs, motivations, and frustrations are rather than guessing what they are from what we have seen in the media. We often forget that the media often takes one thing, generalizes it, and then popularizes it so that we believe that it is true for that group; that’s why we have these biases and stereotypes of different groups of people.
As designers, it is important to remember to look beyond our assumptions, because they are often based on popularized stereotypes and partial truths. By connecting with users from diverse backgrounds, we can create products and services that are more inclusive and better serve our users.