Digital sucks – because we pay too much attention to user desires
Are we turning our users into narcissistic toddlers by catering to their every whim?
Claudia Gorelick and John Jones of Fjord (now part of Accenture Interactive) have written an interesting Medium post, challenging some conventional wisdom. Is, perhaps, user-centric design making digital,well, suck? Possibly:
Children’s experiences with the Amazon Echo, for example, often have unintended consequences, and in many cases, we’ve seen kids commanding other children and parents the way they bark orders at Alexa. Meanwhile, adults are ordering products to be delivered the same day whether they need that book or baby-shower gift immediately or not, and huff and puff if it can’t be on their doorstep by dusk. Simply put, this technology has changed expectations, and now people insist on getting what they want, when they want it.
Now, to be fair here, much of user-centric design was in opposition to company-centric design, where produxts reflected the company's needs more than the users' (and there's a whole other discussion about a misaligned corporate culture there). So, rather than being a counterblast against user-centric design, this is more a counter-blast against user impulse-centric design.
If we are designing for the narcissistic center point — “I want it now!” — we should remember to add balance through the “what is actually good for you” that is often missing from the processes and experiences that enable the ultimate in convenience and speed.
And that's arguably true under-centric design: designing for the user's needs, not the user's wants.
Perhaps an obvious comparison here would be junk food, as against healthy food: junk food sells easily, because it appeals to our basest hunger needs, without actually being that good for us. Healthy food is usually less exciting to that lizard brain part of us, so it takes a much more skilled designer (or chef, in this case) to attract consumers. Too many apps are built on junk food principles, attracting users through compulsive attention to their low level desires, without enough attention to the benefits of the product to someone's life.
So, can we make digital suck less by thinking harder about not just user loyalty, but user good?