by Will Dages
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all the conferences, talks, and books that I’ve read about designing user experiences, it’s this:
Design for your audience, not for yourself.
Sound simple? Nope. Designing for your audience means questioning everything, and it turns out that’s really hard.
There are simply some things that you take for granted, things that you mistake for universal truths that really only apply to you. Maybe it’s the way your parents or a teacher showed you how to do something, or maybe it’s something that you don’t witness many other people doing. Everyone thinks they do things in the most logical, sensible, efficient, ‘right’ way (especially programmers). This is why it’s so tempting to design solutions for yourself, and why UX professionals are so valuable (I do not consider myself a UX professional).
Take something seemingly simple like reading a book. I was recently throwing around some ideas for a bookmarking experience. Even while consciously trying to stay objective, I soon discovered that I was assuming something very fundamental to the experience based on how I personally do things. All 3 people in the room at the time had different reading/bookmarking behaviors.
When I feel like putting down a book, I push through and keep reading until I get to the next page. I read up until the first full paragraph on that page, then stop. I either dog-ear the page, or face the ‘front’ of my bookmark towards the last page I read. When I pick it back up, I look for the first indent and start reading from there.
Rob stops reading as soon as he feels like stopping, or when he gets interrupted. He bookmarks the page, and when picking it back up, scans the page(s) for the last thing he remembers reading, and continues from there.
Shawn also stops reading right where he feels like stopping, but uses a page-clip bookmark that he can point to the last line he read, so he can pick the book right back up without scanning the page to find where he left off.
3 people in the room, 3 different reading habits. The only way to uncover this sort of thing is to ask questions and do research. Show prototypes and ideas to other people early and often. Iterate on your ideas and don’t wait to uncover them or talk about them until you feel they’re ‘finished.’ This experience was a great reminder to stay vigilant in never assuming.