When User Experience doesn’t matter



I spend a great deal of time preaching the merits of user experience.  Software design is about the end user, not about my preferences as a user of software.

I particularly subscribe to the ideas in Alan Cooper’s work “Face 3” and the book the “Inmates are Running the Asylum”.  This involves researching one’s target market, creating personas typical of that market, then having those personas participate in realistic scenarios, which may or may not involve your software.

I think I’ve learnt the hard way, however, that sometimes designing the ideal user experience can be, frankly, a waste of time.

In a recent presentation, designer Joel Flom relates how designers sometimes create great designs which are gratefully received by the customer, who then proceed to take the design, consider it completely unworkable then place it in a box, never to be looked at again.   So all time spent in design, documentation and analysis is of no benefit to anyone.

Although creating a “world” (via personas and scenarios) that accurately model a user experience, we need to be careful that we do not lose sight of two highly influential factors. 

The first is ensuring that the personas we create truly do reflect the attitudes of our target market.  It’s tempting to create a persona that is a user advocate, that loves our company and wants to form a relationship with it.  This makes me feel warm inside but i don’t think it reflects every persons expectations.  Most people want to do something quickly and easily.  They’re not interested in taking us out to dinner.   Creating an elaborate “UX” for these people can be a waste of time.

The second involves the other stakeholders in the software project.  I’m talking about the analysts, developers, other designers, consultants and marketing that are expected to implement your ideas.  They have opinions too and need to be heard.  If they aren’t then they will either consciously or subconsciously sabotage or modify your grand plans beyond recognition.   

Joel provides 3 thoughts that may help.  Firstly, get a complete picture of the customer experience, not just an idealised one.  Become a student of the business, not just your customer’s business, but your own.  Understand what all the stakeholders want, particularly those responsible for implementing your solution.  Give the customer what they really need, not just what’s “cool”.  Having a more complete understanding of the problem will result in a truly effective solution.





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