“You Are Not Your User”

performing arts website

Tom and I met this morning to discuss a bunch of websites we’re currently building, and I found myself thinking repeatedly of a new book from Sitepoint, Killer UX Design. This is a very useful and accessible book about user experience design, and one of the first things author Jodie Moule says is, “You are not your user.”

Do you think you are your own target market? Think again.

First, you’re probably a business owner, self-employed professional, or marketing director. Even if you happen to be in the age range of your typical customer, or to share other demographic characteristics with that customer, you probably have a statistically unusual job for that group.

You definitely have a different experience of an relationship with your company and the company’s website from that of your typical customer.

There are usually even more differences:

  • You’re probably in a completely different job, and maybe a different field. For example, the screen shot here shows the mockup of a site we’re building for a theater company. Their typical customer is a teacher, a parent, or the artistic director of a community theater or other venue. They may have a lot of things in common with their user, but they are certainly not their typical users. Another site we’re working on right now is a medical supply company. They’re selling to hospitals. This is the usual scenario — the seller and the buyer are simply not doing the same jobs.
  • You’re doing completely different things with the website. A third site that we’re building is designed for use by lawyers, who will ask questions, and by paid subjects who will answer those questions. The site owner has lots of knowledge and ideas on how this will work, but he will not be asking questions or being paid to answer questions. He’s not a lawyer, and wouldn’t take the paid subject job, either, since he has a demanding job of his own as an entrepreneur. He can put himself in the position of both his customer groups, but he definitely isn’t the user.
  • You know too much. The fourth website we’re discussing is a straightforward e-commerce site with a catalog and buying options. The company sells a single very specialized item, in myriad variations. They never get overwhelmed by the choices or confused by all the possible combinations of size, finish, and material. Their customers could very easily experience both those reactions. As Moule’s book points out, people must be very highly motivated or the site must be very easy to use. Assuming that you don’t want to limit yourself only to the most highly motivated customers, your website has to be easy to use even for people who don’t know much.

Give some time and thought to the user experience, bearing in mind that you really are not your user, and you will be much happier with your results.


4 thoughts on ““You Are Not Your User”

  1. Don’t forget that data is your best friend in this situation! Knowing that you aren’t your target audience is only so helpful if you don’t know who your target audience actually is.

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