Stop Calling Me a “User”

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 7 voices, and was last updated by  Andrew Krzmarzick 8 years, 3 months ago.

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  • #176934

    David Dejewski

    It used to be an insult to be called a “User.” If you were called a “user,” it meant that you use people. “Users” are selfish, manipulative, and sometimes cruel. I don’t want to be called a “user.” I’d feel bad if someone called me that.

    If you must call me something because I use a piece of technology that you helped to create, call me a “customer,” or a “client,” or better yet, a “partner.” These labels show respect. They show collaboration or that you serve me and my interests. They make me feel good about myself and tell me that I am important. The “Customer” is always right – even when I am clearly and indisputably technically wrong.

    “Users” are almost always wrong, stupid, or ignorant. Users are wrong before the phone even rings. Users are the source of “User Error” and a resource drain on customer service desks.

    What are you, a “Creator?” Are you somehow more in control, better or smarter than I am? Do you know my business better than I do? Why do I not get a place of honor at the design table? Why do I hear you sigh on the phone when I need help. Heck, if you designed and presented it the way I need it, I wouldn’t have had to call in the first place.

    “Creators” believe they can over ride “Users” because “Creators” know stuff that a mere “User” can’t fathom. Creators take license, because they believe they know what’s best.

    User testing feels like an event where Creators throw their precious creation into a animal pen. An event where the Creator’s creation gets trampled by the cloven hooves of stupid beasts – beastly “Users” who know not what they trample.

    I am not a “User” with cloven hoof, fat fingers, and a dim wit. I am a wonderful human being who’s energy and creativity keep the wheels on the bus as it rolls down the road. I adapt to changing business conditions. I keep our organization’s customers happy. I negotiate. I bargain. I initiate. I eat my lunch. I hug my kids. I choose clean energy. I close.

    Stop calling me a “User.”


  • #176950

    Couldn’t agree more, Dave. Words I prefer:

    • Guest
    • Visitor
    • Participant

    Anything but User…or “Lurker.”

  • #176948

    David B. Grinberg

    Awesome analysis, as usual, David!

  • #176946

    Mark Hammer

    I beg to differ.

    The people we serve are not “users”, but they are not “clients” OR “customers”. They are citizens, and so are we. That puts us on a level playing field: peer-to-peer. We tend to forget that part, sometimes. All too easy to develop grudges against, or resentment of, “customers”. Harder to feel that way about fellow citizens. Your boss is a citizen, and so is their boss, just like the people you serve, and the folks they serve.

    A term we often use in discourse in my own directorate is “end-user”. (Admittedly, other folks also use “client”, but I try to avoid using it myself.) I like it because there is an implicit anticipatory aspect to it, and a linkage of purpose: Somebody else needs to have something, that I participated in getting ready, usable for them at the end of the line. I prepare documents and data for end-users, and design survey content for end-users. They are not puttering around, like shantytown folk sifting through garbage dumps for something potentially useful, nor are they pushing a cart down the aisle at Target. There is an implied social contract between myself and them to deliver something that, in the end, will be useful. “End-user” gives me purpose, and them value. And when I’m the end-user, I believe someone has gone to bat on my behalf. Reject “user-hood”, by all means, but embrace “end-user-hood”.

  • #176944

    Christine Hoffmann

    I’m with Mark Hammer. My agency is very tech heavy, and all of our “customers/clients/partners” are called “end-users” for our software programs. I don’t know if adding a prefix makes it better or worse though. 🙂

  • #176942

    Tom Choman

    Personally, I think “visitor” is the best choice out of all those suggested. This term would align with the metrics being collected on most websites, e.g. uniqure vistors, visits, etc. I do agree, however, that these folks are indeed “customers” that we are serving but that term does imply payment for a service, yet not so much as “client” does. Given this, I think it will still be hard to move us away from “user” but it is worth trying, as I believe the term does have negative connotations.

  • #176940

    Dawn Lautwein

    I loved the phrase “who know not what they trample”. I’ve certainly seen that attitude before, and it even hits closer to home than I would hope. I’m not sure changing the terminology would completely the “Creators” attitude, but I do agree that “user” has negative connotations. We might have to have even more delusions of grandeur, as programmers, to go with the suggestion of “enjoyer”, though.

  • #176938


    What Dave is trying to do here, I think, is brand the person who receives what we create as someone who brings value to the equation – that they are not passive recipients, but the most vital link in the chain – so why aren’t they involved earlier and as part of a continuous feedback loop in the service / product development process? Not the end-user, but the valued benefactor of our efforts.

    To Mark’s point, we can ask, “How would I want to be involved / heard as someone who is simultaneously public servant and citizen?”

  • #176936

    David Kuehn

    Thanks for the post. I have bristled at the term for years. Depending on the circumstance, “operator” may be an accurate term for people who use technology. Client and customer also work in many circumstances.

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