The user is always right. We’re not.

I’ve come to terms with the fact that whether or not I like it, I’m what the industry has dubbed a ‘user experience’ or ‘UX’ practitioner. Oh the indignity… I’m a closet coder, a designer, an alright I.A, a marketing snob, a digital evangelist and sometimes when I’m in the right space a pretty good salesman… How have I come to be a ‘UX’ guy? Even the term ‘UX’ is easy & simple, it’s so degrading of my talents.

I jest. The answer is actually pretty simple – I love people, that’s why I’m a UX guy. More importantly though I love people loving my work & the work of the agencies I’ve worked with. I’m a supplier of FMDG (fast moving digital goods) you see. What I produce gets consumed & if the consumption experience sucks then nobody will want it anymore or tell their friends about it. That’s UX… Not academia or hyperbole and complicated methodology. So I put this to anybody interested & reading this, if you’re someone involved in digital in some shape or form, no matter how big or small & your interested in how the end-user is going to consume your FMDG then you’re also a UX Practitioner, and I welcome you warmly to this very un-exclusive club of ours! So you might be a UX Planner, or a UX Designer, or a UX Coder… Even a UX Project Manager… It doesn’t matter, you’re part of this big UX puzzle we’re all working together to solve.

Now on to the moral bit of this story I’m telling… If you’re NOT a UX Practitioner then you’re wasting time with whatever FMDG product being created. Seriously… Stop… Put down the mouse & go find an insular job that doesn’t have an end user involved. We hit the point in the evolution of the WWW where we stopped guessing & started listening a long time ago & the results are everywhere. I’ll put my professional neck on the block & guarantee that every success story from the last 10 years was created using UX principals, not good luck & best judgement. Alright, so I admit there are sites out there that started a bit ropey (eBay anybody?) but I bet they really evolved to the point of non-displacement because they took on board user feedback & kept the momentum positive, not buried heads in hands & stuck by the guns.

I’ve worked with companies that thought they knew better than the general population & did things in their own way, for themselves & because they knew best… Never saw a success story with any of them (we had the occasional fluke, but that’s all it was).

The frustrating part is that it actually takes less time to consult the audience before, during & afterwards than it does trying to fix issues retrospectively. Fact. I’ve seen companies waste months going over old ground when following a user-centred-design approach would have and should have informed solution right from the start. Infuriatingly schoolboy stuff these days. There’s actually no excuse not to make UX the single guiding principal. If a company tells you they’re user focused but doesn’t let real users guide design, instead deferring to the ‘expertise’ of an individual or individuals then I say run, and run fast, because they’re creating a self fulfilling prophecy of almost certain failure. Harsh words, but ones grounded in the facts of hundreds of very successful businesses from all over FMDG.

Find your audience using wisdom, skill, planning & judgement, engage them during the definition & planning phase. Show them your best crack of the whip, incorporate their feedback & then sit back safe in the knowledge that at least you didn’t guess.

Users make or break FMDG, so at least allow them to define what they want… We’re all UX practitioners remember, but we’re also hyper-users, so our best guess & judgment is probably the worst kind.

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