One of the bedrock ideas of User Experience (or UX) design is the notion that:

you =/= your user

You are not the same as the person coming to your website, looking at your logo, or reading your brochure. It sounds so obvious. So banal. Why even say it?

Because it is startlingly difficult to remember. Even when you say it over and over to yourself, you still build your opinions about how things should be done, said, seen, or portrayed based on your own experience. And your heart will be a little hurt or angry when you realize that your user does not understand you.

A Silly Visualization of the Challenge

I saw an instagram post recently that illustrated this with a memorable image:

The perspective of the hapless parents/mobile pickers in the cartoon mirrors our own. We, the constructors of interfaces for websites, of designs for brochures, of logos and graphics and the whole lot, are not coming from the same viewing angle as our users. Either we are on the sales end rather than purchasing, or we just know tech or our own field better, or we are more comfortable with our own jargon than our users. Either way, we struggle to see as they do.

We may even have once had the same perspectives, as adults were once children. But we are not looking up at the mobile like they are. We’re looking across the whole room or down in the crib. That’s why we need to talk to people who still have fresh eyes and hear how they perceive things.

It can get uncomfortable to hear someone’s description of our hard work with criticism or frustration or even disgust. (Hopefully you won’t hear much of the last one.) But we will not build the best user interfaces without some discomfort.

A Conclusion: Get Your Users’ Perspective

Do your homework. Listen to the voices of your customers and business partners BEFORE you begin designing. If you need to rebrand, listen to perspectives on what made your existing brand work and what didn’t. It may even make sense to set up some tests in a project to show different potential logo concepts or shopping cart ideas or navigation labels through user testing. It is not as hard or time-consuming as you think. I can help set those up, and working them in the schedule ahead of time makes it easier to work around the tests and use the results to improve our design.

Perspective is a challenge, but it’s not impossible to widen. Maybe you just have to crouch down and look around from someone else’s perspective.

End Notes:

  1. Because credit is important, here is the original artist’s work. I used this instagram post because (a) the original is entirely in Russian, a language I do not speak and cannot reliably translate; and (b) the original work may not have had the same nuance as the above cartoon since it did not have the UI v. UX captions.
  2. Here, UI means a User Interface – how the information is organized, laid out, and labeled, as well as the flow of interactions you have with a digital product such as a website or an app on your phone.