I was surfing Linkedin the other day and came across this image and at first I liked it. I think its in our UX DNA to agree with this statement but then it got me thinking. Is this a true statement or is it short sighted?
As UX professionals its our job to champion the user. But who is the user? Before you answer this question or go into the methods to surface all your user types lets first look at a few things.
ALL BUSINESSES and I mean all, have a business plan and an idea of the market and customers that they are targeting. A classic example of this for me was the years that I spend in Radio. I worked for a company that had 4 radio stations in the Chicagoland market and each station had a primary demographic that it targeted. This became known as P1 or primary demographic 1. These stations focused their music, web presences, marketing and events around three groups. The primary demographic (P1), secondary demographic (P2) and lastly their onboarding of potential new listeners who would eventually become one of the first two groups; these are called P3.
So why is this important? It was the goal of UX in this case to know these three classes of users to make the best overall consumer product that appealed to and worked best for these users. We can all agree that the demographics of a user effects UI elements in very dramatic ways. If a user is older you want to use larger fonts or in the case of the radio stations older users wanted to purchase and download MP3s so they could burn CDs instead of streaming music; whereas someone younger may want a slightly different experience.
I was told that people grow through radio stations, not with them. This is why the music changes on your favorite radio station over time and eventually you find yourself listening to a classic station instead of a hits driven one.
So this got me thinking does this apply to other areas and products? The answer is 100%, Yes.
Look at any website, consumer site or B-to-B product and it had an audience in mind before a single line of code is written. Or should I say any business that is successful knows its target(s). The scatter-gun approach to putting out product and hoping that you’re hitting the mark seldom works cost effectively.
So let’s look at another slightly different scenario where this statement might not be entirely true. First let me say that I’m a proponent for “Letting the user work the way they want (provided that a company can support it)”. Its the second part of that statement that I want to focus on. As technology moves forward support policies don’t take ALL users into consideration. Typically a company will have an 80/20 rule. We will support a browser, screen resolution or device as long as at least 20% of our audience is accessing our product this way. Now there are exceptions to this rule, far too many to list.
Basically this is a much larger issue in the B-to-B world where companies don’t allow employees to install or update programs on their computers however its also true for early adopters.
So to say that we support ALL users isn’t true. We look at the widest and most business focused set of users of a product.
HOWEVER; where the statement is 100% true is that when you develop products you must take all the user “types” actually using your product into consideration or your overall user experience will “SUX”.
This is specially important as you do feature evaluation. In my experience companies are always driving to “ADD” features and not taking a good look at what users need or the level of user engagement with the product. Your product should be able to fulfill the needs for new, occasional and heavily engaged users. If you design for heavily engaged users your P3 or potential new users will be overwhelmed.
Often UX comes into play after a product has already been established and as UX professionals we are the ones cleaning up and improving products. I wish more companies understood that UX needs to happen early and often to make the best products. This I believe makes this statement truer because companies lose site of whom is using their product(s) and it is absolutely the job of UX professionals to surface and make everyone in the organization aware of its users.
In conclusion when user experience doesn’t consider the target demographics for the needs of the business and all of the current users of these product(s) it should be called “some users experience” or SUX.