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Banning the User

December 12th, 2008

Did you know that ‘user‘ is a bad word in the world of design? It is too vague, too broad and too general. As in the good old Polish saying: rzeczy dobre do wszystkiego najczęściej są do niczego – if something is fit for all purposes, it often does not fit any one purpose. Same with websites, software, interfaces – they need to satisfy not ANY user, but THE user, say, Jerzy who is a workaholic bank employee who likes to catch up with the world news first thing in the morning over a hot cup of coffee, or Joanna, the freelance translator working from home who likes to feel connected to her professional peers. Therefore, in the world of design, ‘users‘ have been replaced by ‘personas‘, or in the words of their inventor, Alan Cooper, “hypothetical archetypes of actual users”. Personas are much more real, flesh and blood people struggling with technology trying to get things done quickly and efficiently. Don’t we all?

In the same vein, user-friendliness is a bit of an empty promise. Friendly how? And to whom exactly? Hands up those who appreciate the ‘friendly’ if not patronising remarks of a know-all paper clip in MS Word (Mr Clippy if I remember the name correctly). “Looks like you are trying to write a letter. Would you like some help?” Yes, can you stop bothering me?

So I am banning ‘users’ from this blog, welcome Jerzys and Joannas of the world!

The question which arises now is what kind of personas I had in mind when creating this website…To find out, please read my next post!