Tune in every Wednesday for a weekly "small dose" of advice, an explanation, or an interview with a web veteran. Lauren Bacon has mentored and coached many web professionals as they were starting out and loves sharing all that she's learned from her 15-year career as a designer, front-end developer, and agency principal.
Skill Level Beginner
- [Narrator] Hi, I'm Lauren Bacon and welcome to this week's edition of the Web Career Clinic where I explore how to build a career you love making good stuff on the web. This week I decided to reach out to one of my favorite UX professionals, Magga Dora Ragnarsdottir, and ask her to share three things about user behavior that might surprise you. I asked Magga, are there things you need to repeat over and over again? What do people not get about UX? And this is what she told me.
You are not the user. And I know that's probably what you'd expect a UX person to say, but what she said next struck a chill in my heart because I know I've been guilty of this. She said that when she starts a project and asks who she can talk to to learn more about what users want, Very often the response she gets is oh, you can talk to me, I've been the project manager for the past 10 years, so I know everything.
Now I don't know about you, but that made me cringe in recognition. It's so easy to start to believe that we know all there is to know. Or worse, that we know better than our users. So, please stop doing that. Go directly to your users and stop assuming that you can predict what they want or how they're going to interact with your work. Go out and observe them. Do a user test and see them actually interacting with your product.
I guarantee there will be some surprises. You might find out that they can't find the next button, or they don't know what will happen if they click it. You might discover that they figured out their own way of using your site or app that you never imagined. So, go, talk to them, you are not your user. If you want a refresher on how to run user testing, be sure to check out the Web Career Clinic video, Quick and simple user testing.
Okay, back to the wisdom of Magga. She gave a great talk called How to get rid of those pesky users. I'll share the link with you in a minute. And at one point she said something that really struck me. She said, users flow like water. That is when a person sets out to accomplish a task, they'll find a way that's easiest for them and as soon as they hit an obstacle, they'll go a different route. So, if your system seems too difficult, they'll find a work around. Or they'll give up.
And neither of those things is what you want to have happen. Now, as a person who makes stuff, of course you're always trying to make things easy to use. So, this is where user testing comes in again. It's not that you can never know how to make things easier, but you can't just operate on your own assumptions all of the time. Because a sequence or approach that makes sense to you might not be obvious to everyone. It's in testing your assumptions that you'll learn how to serve your users better.
Or as Magga told me, we always forget that when we're designing things without our users in the room, we are only optimizing for ourselves. Here's the paradox. As you become more expert at your job, you'll likely develop systems for approaching challenges that in some ways make your work better, but they still need to be tested. And this is hard to swallow because you may fall into the trap of thinking, well, this is just like the way we approached this other project and that one works great, so this should work great, too.
But Magga says that even if you're using a well established design pattern, for example, there's an art to placing it in the right context. You might be able to reuse a particular approach to a drop down menu or a search field, but knowing where and when to present the menu or the search field requires testing and iteration. There you have it, three surprising things about user behavior courtesy of Magga Dora Ragnarsdottir. I want to thank Magga for allowing me to paraphrase her ideas.
Her talk How to get rid of those pesky users is available online and I highly recommend it. There's far more detail than I've recapped here including some fascinating exploration of some of our human frailties, like a flawed memory and poor decision making. She's a brilliant thinker. Find her at madpow.com and on Twitter @maggadora. Thanks for joining me today. Tune in next time as I explore another topic for web professionals. Bye for now.