Whitney Hess on user experience:
The user is not like me. Mustn’t we acknowledge that most of us don’t work for companies who serve anyone like us?
Should designers follow such a principle? My gut reaction is no, they shouldn’t (but one of the main points in the post is to avoid following one’s intuition). Isn’t this what is wrong with almost every single classic design from Google? They assume that people will use computers the way that Google uses (or wants people to use) computers. And what Hess suggests—that getting to know your audience is paramount to user experience design—is exactly what happens in Mountain View: color choices by most-clicked, heat map layout design, etc…. I’d say this is exactly what Microsoft did with the Windows 8 Explorer ribbon changes, and what a mess that was.
Apple, on the other hand, uses no focus groups and comparatively little user or developer input in their designs. However, it’s hard to assume that Apple isn’t thinking about what will delight, intrigue, and help users the most when using their products. It is also hard to believe that the top OS X designers use their computers the same way that I do. But would the same thing hold true for someone like Scott Forstall? Does he use his iPhone or iPad the same way I do? I think he just might. Obviously not exactly the way I do, as we are all individuals, but more or less, I’d guess that he does.
So, maybe “the user is not like me” is the most important thing to remember, but based on real-world applications of this mantra, just as important is how the information about users is acquired (by intuition, which is anathema to Hess’s assertion; or by research, which she directly advises) and then implemented. On top of that, iOS seriously calls the entire concept into question.