The fear of the user

Why we in Germany are still not listening to the user when developing digital products. A polemic.

Yes, of course, we'll do a usability test - plan that as well.

We hear this in every project. Whether the test is actually carried out is another matter. It doesn't matter, we are all experts, we already know what the user likes. Besides, enough money has already been spent on market research, the customers are known, you know exactly what they want.

And actually it's quite simple: let's do what the competition does, but better of course. Our design will be better, our content is better, and only then the UX! The UX!

Mm, yeah.

What does UX mean? User Experience. Exactly, user experience. The experience of the user during use. It should be fun, the product should be perceived as valuable. It should be positive, this evaluation of the quality of use. So that the users become fans, they become loyal to their own product, the frequency of use increases, sales increase. It could be as simple as that.

It's a shame that users only appear on the periphery of the digital product. As buyers of the finished product, who then grapple with the imaginary functions, who present themselves in an imaginary way and then hopefully evaluate this experience as positive. Because - see above.

You could actually involve users right from the start, after all, digital products are usually built for them. Of course, it is not only user requirements that are relevant, but also business, regulatory or technical requirements. But without the user, none of this is possible. If he can't do what he expects with the application, in a way that he expects, then he won't do it. Or at least not as often as one would like as a provider. He will not enjoy it, he will not develop positive emotions towards the product, his evaluation will remain neutral at best.

So let's take him along with us, let's find out what drives him, what he likes, what he doesn't like and let's understand why. And then let's do the feature list, the concept and the design. And in between, let's keep questioning him because we enjoy experimenting, making mistakes and learning from them. Sure, things could come out that you don't want to hear, for example that these 10 must-have features are not needed by anyone, but they tie up 30% of the development resources. Or that the personally preferred design and the chosen color world do not appeal to anyone else, or that the aesthetics for the icons and the language of forms are in theory adequate for the target group, but in reality in this special context of this particular application, they do not make anyone happy.

Or we simply say how it is: we build digital products with a range of functions appropriate to the market, very good usability in an extremely attractive design. That a good UX can be a very special distinguishing feature is something we deliberately let pass.

Then we would have to plan the UX-relevant points of contact with the user right from the start (see graphic), and consider the corresponding costs and time periods. But this would not make it more expensive, nor would it take longer overall. We wouldn't have to fix bugs in the next (maybe never coming) release, which takes longer and costs more. We wouldn't even have to put effort into functions that no one is interested in, we wouldn't have to invest a lot of money into convincing users of the product's benefits again after a failed start. We would convert users better, they would enjoy using the product more. The bottom line is that this does not make the project more expensive or longer, it just becomes a different project.

So let's not be afraid of it and finally really involve the user - with more than just a downstream usability test.

Markus Kugler

Managing Director & Usability Engineer


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