You are not the user

User experience is such a popular term in today’s digital industry that everyone uses it freely. As a result, definitions are mixed up, and methodologies are misused. It’s therefore essential to debunk a persistent misconception.

We tend to assume that people who will use the products we’ve designed are just like us. When non-UX professionals speak of what they believe is a better user experience, they often refer to their own experience. While they only have one example of someone using the interface… themselves.

And this is dangerous thinking. The real people who use your site or app every day are not like you, even if you are one of them. Your needs, problems, and understanding of the experience are different. That’s why it’s crucial to keep one thing in mind: “You are not the user.”

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The UX mantra

“You are not the user” has become one of the user experience mantras for good reason. We all make assumptions. It’s a very human, natural thing to do. But you can’t learn anything about users if you work with your own assumptions.

That’s why it is important to do user research. Without it, it is impossible to create solutions that deliver value and meet your users’ expectations..

You are not the user

You can’t learn anything about users if you work with your own assumptions.

The false consensus effect

UX professionals always start with the fact that they are different from their users. Otherwise, we’ll make generalizations based on one example… our own experience.

Assuming you are your user is natural and a misconception ingrained in the human mind. It’s called the false consensus effect.

The false consensus effect

The false-consensus effect refers to people’s tendency to assume that others share their beliefs and will behave similarly in a given context. Only people who are very different from them would make different choices.

You are not your users ... the developers are not your users, and your coworkers are not your users. - Tim Broadwater

What can you do to overcome this?

  • First, acknowledge the existence of this bias so that you are aware of it.
  • Second, talk to the people you're designing a product for.

And by this, we mean real users, not your colleagues. Know who your users are and test how they respond to your designs by seeing them use those designs.

So don’t make assumptions. When you do user research, you can provide your users with the best solutions because you have discovered precisely what they need.

This article is taken from our newly released course, where you learn the foundations of User Experience in 20 videos. Want to know if it’s for you? Try for free →