Blaming the user

This post is by Seth Godin from Seth's Blog

In the early days of tech, the acronym of choice was, “Read the friggin manual.” If an engineer uttered RTFM in your direction, it meant that whatever happened was your fault. Tech is a powerful tool, and if you want to use it, do the work.

Over time, as user interface became user experience, and as organizations sought to serve ever larger audiences, UX designers began to take responsibility for how people would engage with their websites and software.

For a while, if the software didn’t work for the intended user, that was the software’s fault. “We’ll make a better interface” is a much better motto because it puts the responsibility where it belongs.

But the overhang was still there. In many companies, “user error” was a problem for the user to fix. Organizations were pitching convenience and simplicity, but the moment the user made an error, the messages were curt, the wait on hold was long due to unusually heavy call volume, and if it didn’t work for you, well, we’ve got enough users, it’s cheaper for you to go somewhere else.

As my colleague Mark Hurst points out, this contempt for the clueless user has been multiplied dramatically by the stock market. Now, many large companies have decided to use UX against their users, all of their users, by turning our experience with their websites and networks into one that serves their needs, not ours. It feels more convenient in the short run, perhaps even fun, but it’s (Read more...)