Are You Giving Users What They Ask For? :: UXmatters

Don’t We Need to Demonstrate the Value of Something Before Building It?

Not always. Think of the story I mentioned earlier. In that story, the little boy gives the mouse exactly what it asks for, showing the mouse exactly what the cookie looks like, so it knows what it is. But, after consuming a bit of the cookie, the mouse realizes something is missing and asks for something complementary. In the story, it is a glass of milk. In enterprise-software design, such requests often take a form similar to this: “It’s great that I can now see all my work on one page, but could I also just transfer my work to another team member with a single click?” Or “Wow! This dashboard looks so clean and modern. Can I change all the colors to personalize it?”

Unfortunately, this happens all the time in enterprise-software design and implementation. If the people asking for something are important business stakeholders, their concerns often become requirements that get injected into the project plan with little to no validation. Why is that a problem? This becomes a serious issue when those requests get translated into features or functions that address only edge cases and, thus, don’t add real business value. Without the team’s properly validating such requirements, as part of a typical UX design process, they result in very much the same issue that was lightly handled in the “When you give a mouse a cookie…” children’s story.

Part of our role, as UX professionals, is to ensure that we do not just give the users whatever they want. Nor should we show things to users just because we dismissively feel that they cannot tell us what they want. No, our role is to understand the business goals for the systems we are designing and also to listen to users’ desires, but then frame them within the bounds of those goals.

If we find that users’ needs, wants, or wishes do not align with business goals and we grant them anyway, we end up giving users license that encourages them to continually ask for more and more features and nice-to-haves that undermine the very business outcomes we desired in the first place. In the end, we really don’t want to give the mouse that cookie, because satisfying that desire is a tactical error that will ultimately be frustrating to both the user and the UX designer. 

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