Build Empathy, Solve For Expectations

Without usability testing, an experience designer is only making assumptions of what is valuable to users. The importance of testing designs with users is the most important step in user-centered design and doesn’t happen enough.

The core principal of user-centered design is meeting, if not exceeding, the expectations of the people that use the product you are designing. Designers that intend a product to be used, and interacted with by anyone but themselves, needs to base their design decisions off a solid foundation of user research and testing of the product with users.

I’ve lost count how many times I have seen, and unfortunately have been a part of, the design of products without talking with one user prior to designing or allowing one user to use to see if it was designed correctly prior to delivering. Yes, I am ashamed of this.

I believe a lot of what happens in the name of user experience, is not user-centered at all and ultimately hurts the field in general.

I agree completely with Leisa Reichelt’s post “Why Most UX is Shite.” In it, she states:

“If you’re not an end user of the product (really), or your not regularly talking to or observing your end users to understand how to design for them, seriously consider holding your tongue rather than giving your opinion.”

Designing the visual communication, content delivery and interaction expectations of others cannot be met entirely by two designers sitting side by side debating what the best screen elements to implement. I have been fortunate enough to work with very talented and smart designers and some of the solutions we designed and tested actually worked out pretty well in testing. I consider those particular cases very rare and hopefully you do too.

Sitting with people in their cubical, watching them struggle with an interface that was never tested with users, is the most frustrating thing to watch someone go through. I find myself saying sorry for other’s mistakes.

Someone simply saying “thank you” for listening to what makes their job difficult is humbling. The satisfaction of watching someone’s life become instantly better just by what is proposed in a prototype, designed from the empathy gained through user research and contextual inquiries, is unsurpassed. This is why user experience designers love their job. Helping others lives become even slightly better. What a difference a button placement or additional checkbox makes.

If you create products for the use of others, please, for the sanity of the poor people waiting to use your product, talk to them before you make any design decisions and test early and often.