The Nitty-Gritty

Jan. 23, 2019

Connection is Key

In a recent publication from Jared Spool [1], he talks about the game ‘telephone’. A game that I’m sure most of us have played at one time or another in our lives. A sentence or phrase is given to a person at one end of a line of people and they must tell it to the person next to them. That person in turn tells it to the next person and so it goes all the way down the line. Inevitably, when the last person is asked to share what the sentence/phrase is, it has become something different than what it started out as. Sometimes, the differences might be small, but many times, the change is drastic and it’s hard to understand how the original phrase was transformed to the new phrase at all!

While ‘telephone’ is just a game and it’s funny to see how radically an idea can change when passed from person to person - this game has real world consequences for user experience. In many cases, there may be multiple layers of people between our end users and the UX/UI designer responsible for fixing an issue or designing a feature/system, including support staff, product owners, academic owners, managers, business analysts, developers, others. And, in many of these cases, there may be multiple people in each of these roles that are passing information on to us. All of these people are doing their best to report the issues as they understand them; however, changes creep in unintentionally. As UX professionals, it is our responsibility to make sure that the information we base our design decisions on accurately reflect our users.

The quote below is from the website’s User Experience Basics page. The very first line on the page states:

“User experience (UX) focuses on having a deep understanding of users, what they need, what they value, their abilities, and also their limitations.”

We cannot have an understanding - let alone a ‘deep’ understanding of our users if we never interact with them. We have to listen in order to understand what their goals are. We have to observe in order to understand what works and what doesn’t. We have to ask questions to clarify what we see and hear. There is no substitute for getting to know our users and obtaining direct user feedback.

Usability First defines ‘Know Thy User’ as:

“A mantra for usability specialists; understand your audience and design for them. Don’t make assumptions about your users. Go out and meet them. Gather data. Perform user testing. Understand how they differ, what their goals are, what their needs are, and how they think and feel.”

To advocate for our users, we have to know what they want and we need to make sure we spend time getting that information directly from them. As it says above - we have to go out and meet them! Make the opportunities. Stress the importance of connecting directly with your users. Let’s not play telephone with our user needs and requirements!

Thanks for reading and have a great week!

[1] Getting Closer to Your Users and Their Needs
[2] - User Experience Basics
[3] Usability First - Know thy user


Previous Next





520 N. Cabot Ct. Bloomington, IN 47408   •   Phone: 812.361.1810   •   Email: