Because?

By | January 30, 2006

In discussions about a website, I had said that the word “downloads” on a software site would make the user think the page that followed with have links to download something, probably the software itself. The reply was, “Well, how do you know what the user would think?”

This is a very tough question. This question is sticking in my mind because it is so difficult to answer. My whole career is focused around the notion that I know what users would be thinking in any given situation. What kind of UI Designer or Interaction Designer would I be if I didn’t know what the user was thinking and feeling.

But the question wasn’t “What would the user be thinking?”; it was “How do you KNOW what the user is thinking?” What statistics could I muster to prove my point? My mathematical proof could I show? What specialized training and diploma would act as credentials?

This problem has been a thorn in my mind for years, this is not new. I can blabber on about this forever. But I am consistently stuck on the same question, for which I have no answer.

In a related note, the boys are starting to ask questions for which I also have no answers. “Because I said so” is not an acceptable answer to my colleagues and it isn’t acceptable to the kids either.

2 thoughts on “Because?

  1. fiat lux

    In point of fact, unless you have data in front of you that proves your point, you don’t actually know what the user is thinking. You’re drawing on your experience with similar situations in order to make an educated guess. Presumably, your experience is such that your guess is correct.

    And that’s normal in the product development & marketing worlds. It’s too expensive and time-consuming to do in-depth research, testing, surveys, etc about every single customer-facing question that comes up, so the experience of the people doing the work often becomes a proxy for actually asking the users.

    The problems happen when people think their knowledge is so deep that they don’t need to ask the users anymore, or when they are unable to navigate the ambiguity of user demands/expectations and make wrong choices.

    Whether any of that meta musing applies to your situation, though, I don’t know. Maybe the person in question was just being a butthead.

    Reply
  2. Dan Lipka

    Intuit should hire me as a consultant to do this for you. This is exactly the consulting that I am doing for my boss’s husband. Basically creating, administering, and analyzing survey to understand people’s perceptions. It did this at Penn, Schoen, and Berland for some of the biggest companies in the country. Being objective, instead of subjective, can save companies a ton of money.

    Here is the link to my boss’s husband’s site, all of which I could do myself: http://www.bayerconsulting.com/.
    Here is Penn, Schoen’s site: http://www.psbresearch.com/

    Reply

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