There is No Dumb User, Just Bad Design
Today I met Syapse’s founder and he confirmed to me one thing: it was never about you, it was always about them.
Have you ever heard the phrase: “There are not dumb questions, just dumb answers”?. Do you know why this makes you a better learner? Because the weight does not reside in the student (recipient), but in the professor (messenger). This philosophy often holds true for a good teacher—as it also translates to a good designer, good listener, and overall a better human being.
Ego, the Destroyer of All Things
To first understand good design, we have to understand human nature. There is this intrinsic nature of a person to see the world from his own lenses and form a worldview based on his own prejudices and experiences. This is not bad after all, because this is basically the way we were designed for survival. The problem comes when this attitude isolates that person’s perspective and ultimately affects his actions. Humans have a tendency of being egotistical: to think that we are the center of the universe and everything revolves around us. Add stubbornness (another quality of human nature) and see where this leads. Pride and ego are probably the main causes of so much pain and suffering in the world (wars, greed, etc). Ego is not only dangerous, it is fatal.
How does this connect with design? I will dub this the creator bias: a creator’s tendency to love his creation and when taken to an extreme, the creator can oversee its flaws, leading to blind love and dishonesty. There is nothing wrong with loving what you created, but it is when this behavior produces too much pride and ego, that will lead you to crush everything that goes against your belief system.
To give you a better idea of what I am heading to, there is a legendary video on Coursera’s human computer interaction class from Stanford about two people testing out a printing machine during a Xerox experiment. The video shows you two users having trouble using the machine. The legend has it that the executives judged those users to be ‘dumb’, that they did not know what they were doing. It turned out that those two ‘dumb’ users were Alan Newland and Ron Caplan, two of Xeros’s premier research scientists and giants of computer science research.Continued on the next page