UX design is a growing field that is getting a lot of attention, especially in the digital sphere, as brands realize that the user experience of their websites and apps is part of their brand identity and can have an impact on conversions. But is the term “user experience design” appropriate?
Abigail Posner, a Harvard-trained cultural anthropologist, Google executive, and public speaker, contributes to our online UX design course, UX Design Foundations. She takes a human-centered anthropological approach that reminds us that we need to think about who we design for.
His big tip for a successful user experience design? Stop using the word “user” to start! Don’t forget that you can learn more from Posner and other experts on Fundamentals of UX design. Be sure to take our quick two-minute survey for a chance to win a place on the course.
Although he works in user experience, Posner doesn’t like the term. Instead of the word “user”. The director of Creative Works at Google prefers to say “human”, which is, after all, what the user is, unless you’re actually designing a product for use by bots. “Language is culture, it’s Anthropology 101,” she says. “Once you actually change your language, you realize how much a word can mean. So I like to say the human being harnessing this technology.”
Posner insists that it’s not just about semantics. She says the problem with the word user is that it emphasizes a limited aspect of a person’s behavior: when they interact with a product. What we really need to design a better user (or human) experience is to know more about the person remote from the product, taking into account their values and concerns, their interests, their passions and his journey.
“When we use the word ‘user,’ it just implies when that person is using that device. The device is the story; the user is simply the person using it. So if we take that word out and think of the human being then the type of research that we would use would be much broader, much deeper, and therefore allow us to really understand the human being who uses this technology or uses this software.”
Posner’s approach to human-centered UX design starts from considering the role the product being designed will play for the person who will use it. “When I actually consider the making of anything, whether it’s a piece of technology, a piece of furniture, I always ask what role is it going to play in culture and what do human beings really need? ?” she says.
This comes from her background as an anthropologist, which may mean she approaches things differently than a designer. She compares how an anthropologist, engineer, and interior designer would approach designing a table as an example. “We all have the same file, but we would all approach it differently,” she says.
“The engineer will probably think about the ergonomics of the table vis-à-vis the room vis-à-vis the person and make sure the measurements match perfectly. The designer can think about how the design of the table should reflect the aesthetics of the room. An anthropologist or someone who thinks from a humanistic point of view would think about the role of the table in people’s lives. How does it serve us? What is the value that does it give us?How do we use it in different ways?
The main objective is to think about the purpose of what is created for the person who will use it. “How is it going to make this human being much more productive, prosperous, happy, what is his purpose for this human being to be successful in life?”
For Posner, UX design is therefore much more about understanding people than understanding devices, interfaces, styles or trends. And that requires extensive research (see our tips for UX research and testing). “By really digging in and trying to figure out who that human being is, what makes that person tick, what makes them angry, upset, excited, happy, joyful, you can empathize with that person because you get all the story.”
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Learn from Abigail Posner how UX should benefit the individual by signing up on our line UX Design Basics Course (opens in a new tab).