Explaining Water to Fish – A Record Aside

Looks as if user-centered design simply isn’t all it’s cracked as much as be.

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We’re informed that user-centered design is limiting and we have to look past it. It’s simply not adequate, as a result of it doesn’t think about all of the variables concerned. Jared Spool tells us that user-centered design by no means labored. Even Donald Norman weighs in to debate ways in which human-centered design could also be thought-about dangerous.

It’s proper and good that designers consider and critique the method we observe. Consumer-centered design as a technique has limitations, which have been clearly articulated by these masters of our craft. Exercise-centered design and even self-centered design are equally legitimate processes to observe, beneath the best circumstances.

I’m compelled to take a second and remind everybody that the actual advantage of user-centered design isn’t the particular factors of the method and methodology. Consumer-centered design is a transformative values system as a result of it’s user-centered. The concept we—all of us, a whole gazillion greenback trade—are targeted on designing and making merchandise for different individuals to work together with is so mind-bogglingly enormous, we don’t even discover it.

That we give attention to customers is unquestionable. It’s so basic it nearly doesn’t bear speaking about. We take it with no consideration as a result of it’s the water we swim in, just like the fish on this anecdote from David Foster Wallace:

There are these two younger fish swimming alongside, and so they occur to satisfy an older fish swimming the opposite means, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the 2 younger fish swim on for a bit, after which finally considered one of them seems to be over on the different and goes, “What the hell is water?”… The quick level of the fish story is that the obvious, ubiquitous, necessary realities are sometimes those which can be the toughest to see and discuss.

Being user-centered is the obvious, ubiquitous, necessary actuality of our trade. Which suggests we lose sight of how a lot our work actually means.

Certain, companies have at all times cared about their prospects. However in a mass-media, broadcast world, communication solely went a technique. With solely three channels to select from, TV exhibits didn’t should be that good. With one newspaper controlling the distribution community for a whole metropolis, individuals couldn’t get the information from anyplace else. As soon as they purchased the ebook, what distinction did it make in the event that they preferred it?

Even in case you made a product for individuals to make use of, what did it matter in the event that they discovered it usable? Certain, you would possibly get a couple of typewritten letters about your clock radio or pissed off calls to customer support about your microwave, however the buyer had already paid up.

The verbs we use to explain what individuals do with our work—use, navigate, work together—all underscore the facility, the company, that sits within the person’s palms. The worth of the net, of social, of cell, all rests on the inspiration that the work we do requires the lively participation of the viewers, and that the worth of our work is barely measured by way of their engagement.

[W]e are witnessing the beginning of an entire new world. The digital revolution is, actually, altering issues much more dramatically than the hype-mongers of tech Web ever imagined—solely not in the best way that they and their traders hoped. The transfer from a society dominated by print and broadcast mass media to the age of interactivity is not less than as dramatic because the transfer from feudalism to capitalism.

It’s simple to lose sight of how totally different our world is from the world of only a decade or two in the past. Companies can not deal with their prospects as passive “customers” any longer; each firm is within the person expertise enterprise. Consumer-centered design is greater than a technique. It’s a values system that has modified the very water we swim in.

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