How we talk about UX matters

Thoughts on how we talk about user experience, the impact it has on the product development process, and how it shapes the perception of user experience within our organizations.

As designers, we always consider the user in some capacity. We try to approach design in a human-centered way and aim to make products that meet people’s needs. We include users in the design process by conducting research and creating personas. We utilize storytelling to paint a compelling picture of how we intend for people to use our products:

“Users will easily find the content they are looking for by browsing through the trending videos”

Our intentions are good

Designing with the user in mind is the right thing to do, but we need to be conscious of the way we talk about users and their actions, especially in the early stages of product development when there isn’t much data to back up our statements.

When talking about what people might do we can unintentionally set a bad precedent for what user experience is and how much control we have over it. If we speak about users without speaking to them, it implies we can dictate the experience they have with a product.

This can lead to user experience being thought of and talked about as a technique that gets applied to the product and evaluated internally. I’m one of the biggest perpetrators when it comes to this. Time after time I catch myself making definitive statements about a product before anyone is actually using it:

“The feed meets the needs or our users because we’ve designed a good experience for discovering videos”

We don’t know yet, that’s ok

It’s up to us to direct conversations about user experience in a way that extends beyond the walls of our office and what we expect users to do. Often, this simply means acknowledging that we don’t know how someone will use a product until we put it in front of them and listen to what they have to say.

The next time you talk about a product, try to highlight why you think it will meet the needs of the user, but also acknowledge that the user might have a different experience than the one you designed:

“I think the feed has good affordances for scrolling and provides high visibility for our best videos, but I’d like to validate this by talking to some of our beta testers”

Openly acknowledging that you don’t have control over someone else’s experience is going to feel unnatural, but it will set a good example of how you and everyone in your organization can truly consider the people you are building products for.