March 4, 2013 at 7:15 pm #176934
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.”
March 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm #176950
March 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm #176948
David B. GrinbergParticipant
Awesome analysis, as usual, David!
March 6, 2013 at 11:34 pm #176946
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”.
March 7, 2013 at 3:32 pm #176944
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. 🙂
March 7, 2013 at 4:53 pm #176942
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.
March 7, 2013 at 6:12 pm #176940
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 Thesaurus.com suggestion of “enjoyer”, though.
March 7, 2013 at 10:11 pm #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?”
March 8, 2013 at 4:29 pm #176936
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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