Users Are Not Stupid

Really!  And, quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of programmers talking about them like this (not all programmers, some are worse than others, and all the usual disclaimery stuff applies).

I’m a user first, programmer second.  So are you.  Chances are you were using a computer for everyday tasks for a while before you started programming.  The fact is, we will never again be able to see computers in the same way as we did back then.  This is why we have average users test our software, and it’s vital that we do so.

Think about what it means to be a programmer.  Our job is to make computers more accessible to our dear users.  Everything we do, we ultimately do for them.  If we code with the user in mind at all times, and respect their needs, then everybody will ultimately be better off.

Sure, sometimes (hell, often!) a user’s request may not feel like the right thing for the system, and sometimes it won’t feel like the most elegant thing to do, but there are times when a leap of faith is required.  There will always be a balance between what users want and what we feel is good for them, but I’m appealing to you to lean in the direction of the user.

Nobody likes validating input to death, or putting up what seems like endless tooltips and hints all over the place, but users really do appreciate the little things we do to make their experience better.  Unfortunately, it’s more of a case of preventing outrage than garnering actual praise, but that’s what we signed up for, for better or worse.  The more people use the system for its intended purpose and the less we hear back, the better.

Make your error messages friendly.  Let the user feel like they have a more casual relationship with the system and they might feel less frustrated when something goes wrong.

“Don’t you worry about blank, let me worry about blank.”

Customer service rules apply even when the customer isn’t right in front of us.  Think of the system as an extension of yourself.  Build a little bit of your personality into the system for a more personal experience.

Please, please don’t think of your users as < you, it’s just not fair.  Think of how out of place you would feel in their profession.  Respect the average user, and let’s make the computer experience better.  For them.

2 responses to Users Are Not Stupid

Perhaps it starts with the fact that people who use other people’s programs are called “users” by the computer community. I think it’s a bit of a derogatory term which arose in the 1960’s and 70’s when programming became a profession. In those days, computer geeks were quite a small and exclusive crowd, often imbued with a sense of superiority. The “users” were lesser beings who used our stuff and often called on us for help. Isn’t it interesting that the computer and illicit drug industries are the only ones who call their customers “users”?

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