Kara, Ashton, Isaac. Real people, not “users.”

I stopped designing for users, and began designing for humans instead

The term “user” implies a creature that exists solely for the purpose of using your product. This theoretical creature is overflowing with enthusiasm for your app, and has infinite energy to use it. It receives every notification, email and prompt that you send with great delight.

In other words, a “user” doesn’t exist. The term user is a self-serving construct, invented to make us designers feel like there’s a ready-made audience for our products or services.

As long as we keep on designing for users, our products will suffer.

It’s weird that we’ve all accepted the detached term users without question, despite Design being such a profoundly human endeavor. As designers, we solve problems for people, to delight them, to entertain them, to improve their lives. When you design for a vague entity such as a user, you’re in passing creating a degree of separation between you and the people who would most benefit from the solution you’re creating. You’re no longer attached to a person, but rather, a statistical metric, and your design will feel as such — soulless.

Instead, design for a human with a name and a specific need, not a faceless user.

Design for Kara, who’s demanding job leaves little time for working out. Design for Ashton, a self-described “nerd” who has trouble shopping for clothes that fit. Design for Isaac, who’s away in Germany for work leaving Emma, his girlfriend, back in NYC for a few months.

Visualize a person, a human, someone who needs your product urgently. Imagine this person going through life, her troubles and worries. Develop an emotional connection with her. Then design something that will improve her life.

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