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You maybe heard a lot about “user-centric design”,  “building empathy for users” and “design thinking”. It seems so obvious, almost trivial. People even sometimes ask “What kind of other design is there ?”. Finally, an answer pops out: “Engineer centric !”

It seems quite obvious for everyone though that they are “user-centric”. I hear this a lot with entrepreneurs or engineers (and actually any executive). “I know what the customer want”. Or, “I think the design of this feature is ergonomic: I don’t like it on this website”, or “I would need this one to work”. And yes they all think they are user-centric. They just forgot the number one rule of User Experience: You’re not the f**** user! We learned it the hard way here at Wakanda… But we learned!

So let’s dig into this. What does it actually mean “You’re not the user !”? Why is it the number one rule (and the number one pitfall of design)? Why is it such a common pitfall? It’s maybe not so obvious what this rule actually means. And why it is so important.

Often, when I talk about usability tests or empathy building, I hear executives say: “we use our product, so we know very well what is good and how it can be improved”.

There is a big misunderstanding: “You’re not THE user” is not “you’re not A user”.

You’ll tell me I am excessively precise and I play with words. I am not. The meaning of this sentence is that you can only carry one point of view. “The user” is a general idea, a concept. He is not real. You can not touch it, nor speak with it. He represents a multiplicity of point of view, there are statistical ideas behind somewhere. And most of all, it’s about subjectivity.

That’s why we do user testing: to get a glimpse of this diversity and stay aware of our own subjectivity.

Do you know why UX researchers never do a test twice with the same person ? They relentlessly need fresh eyes. (Even when they need to test with people experienced with their product). It’s surely because you get trained very fast to a website, and learn to cope with unergonomic features. But that’s not all. As soon as you get slightly involved in a project you are building a bias toward it. It’s perfectly human, and no one escapes it.

You have a big list of biases that affects you when you get involved:

So even if you’re using the product, you might be one of the few users who shouldn’t be listened to.

Not only aren’t you THE user, but you’re not even A representative user!

This is why even for things that seem so obvious to you, you really need a way to objectify them. The overconfidence effect is going to hold you back from it. But remember:  you have an overconfidence bias!

With tests, you’re not saved yet. There is no silver bullet. Still, this first step is going to make a huge difference.
The better you’ll get, the more objective and useful the result will be.

As you’ll see, it’s something extremely difficult to step in, but once you’re there, it’s energizing and inspiring for all the team members participating. Your project is going to move up a gear, just by focusing on users. for real this time.