UX Power Up: User Advocacy

User advocacy is at the heart of usability, user experience and Design Thinking. User advocacy is a core design decision making tool because it utilizes empathy. Advocating for user needs is empathy demonstrated. 

In this week’s UX Power Up, Frank shares some tricks for remaining a strong user advocate in your language and thinking. Please post your comments below, we would love to hear your thoughts.

Transcript of video above…

User Advocacy

Frank Spillers, founder of Experience Dynamics, and it’s time for this week’s UX Power Up.

Today I’d like to talk about the topic of User Advocacy.  When we talk about user experience, it seems like a lot of people forget about the “User” part in user experience.  One of the foundations of usability is to advocate for users.  I like to say “think like your users”, which is a kind of a way of stepping into your users shoes. The thinking part is how might they process information, what confusions might they have, and what might be social or emotional states that impact their use, you know?  Are you users sitting there, they’ve got pasta burning on the oven, baby’s screaming, that kind of thing.

So, in user advocacy, there is a really interesting mantra you can use – it’s something that Arnie Lund, user experience director at Microsoft said – he said “Know thy users, and you are not thy user.”  “Know thy user, and you are not thy user”, that’s what Arnie Lund said!

So one of the tips that I found that can help you stay in a user advocacy position, is the language that you use.  All too often I’m in meetings with teams across the country, and globally, and I find that there’s a lot of “I’ing” going on… first person.  It’s “I would…” you know, like to do this, or “If I clicked on this… I would find this…”  From a usability standpoint, we’re not really interested in what YOU:  the product manager; or the business analyst; or the designer; or the developer – or even the usability specialist; care or think about the design.  What we’re interested in is what the user would do.  So when we’re making design decisions, it’s important to be really clear about the language we’re using.  And if you’re talking on behalf of the user, then it’s better for you to say – “The user… might find this confusing, or would… “ and if you’re sure, if you’ve done usability testing then you can state it as a fact, and it’s nice to reference the fact, like – “In usability testing, we found that users x-y-z, you know… found it confusing, or whatever.”

So, a little tip on our language, but it can be a powerful thing because language shapes our consciousness, and it shapes our decision making.  A lot of people get stuck in that first person.  The benefit of user centered design and of usability is stepping out of that first person and referencing a third person point of view.  “The user might…” as opposed to, “I…”, because it’s really hard to argue when someone says “I think this is blah, blah, blah…”, and it’s like we don’t care what YOU think, you know?  “Know thy user, and you are not thy user.”  And if you’re watching this UX Power Up, you are definitely not your user – right?  You’re someone that’s designing or deciding on behalf of users.

So, think about your users, think Like your users, and thanks a lot for joining me.  

See you next time.

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