Hey, designers! Stop fighting for users.

Stop fighting for users. Stop fighting for the business. Start fighting for every single choice to be made as though the business and its users are inextricably linked.

7th May, 2021

Fighting for users is a wonderful sentiment, but not what we should be doing. More accurately, we should be matching and reconciling mental models. We should be improving the ways the business and its users understand and interact with each other.

I know… Semantics. It’s all the same. The language matters, though. It deeply and profoundly matters.

For users:

Is the business doing what I think it’s doing?

For the business:

Are users doing what we think they’re doing?

It’s not about placing users on a pedestal above the business. It’s about recognizing, and getting others to recognize, they shouldn’t be thinking about the business in isolation. The business and its users are in a symbiotic relationship that needs to be taken into account for any and all choices.

Many choices — I’d wager nearly all choices — are made in isolation. Business-focused choices made in isolation from users. User-focused choices made in isolation from the business. It’s all bad. All of it contributes to mental model drift.

When someone is making choices for the business in isolation from users, the response is not to fight for users — that will exacerbate the problem. It’s to intervene and prevent choices made in isolation from happening again.

When choices made in isolation are allowed to continue, disfunction accumulates. Everything slows down. Everything gets more expensive.

Systemically slower. Systemically more expensive.

Alignment of mental models is the system. An accurate and symbiotic relationship between mental models is the only way for the system to be efficient. The only way for the system to remain efficient.

Stop fighting for users. Stop fighting for the business. Start fighting for every single choice to be made as though the business and its users are inextricably linked.

Because they are.

The problem with problems

Don’t talk about problems (or solutions). Instead, talk about progress. Only then can we be precise without dictating implementation details.