How I fell in Love with the User

17 Mar 2019 | Berlin, DE

In moments of meeting her, I get butterflies in picturesque banging the internal walls of every fibre of my being.

I see the kind of voices lepidopterists hear when butterflies sing Symphony №7 in A major, Op. 92: II. Allegretto. Or any kind of a simple enough title that can harness the Butterfly Effect from a thousand miles away. Somewhere in between I get lost in words to articulate this feeling and end up in gibberish. Then I turn around and learn how challenging it is for her to connect and accomplish things in the world.

Because the internet is not the same for everyone. For some, it is unlimited and full of opportunities and possibilities. For others, the connection speed is as slow as chameleon and unaffordable. Let’s take Africa, for instance, where one keeps their thumb over the pulse of a mobile data toggle-switch, ready to turn it on-and-off for a hundredth and sixteenth time in a day, just to conserve Data Bundles. So here’s a question to digital product makers: how about we better squeeze the size of any product we build regardless of wherever we are in the world.

Back to her. She is beautiful. She deserves to use and experience beautiful and meaningful products. This is why I want to improve the performance and usability of any application that she might happen to use. I think of the loading speed: to accelerate it to the last bit of millisecond for someone I consider as patient as her. I think of being responsible with responsive design; and respect her privacy. I think and try my best to explore all possibilities that could be when her device slowly renders a web page at hand. I want to run to the codebase. I want to start by serving her browser with the core layers that make the web, then progressively enhance the experience with no annoyance.

Because for her seeing a white blank screen with those big ocean eyes is not as zen as you may think. It is alarming. And I do all of this not because her smartphone is not keeping up, but because I feel her pain. I want to deliver the best possible experience she could get at any time, anywhere she is. An experience that her current situation may enhance for her own needs at that time. Unlike the one that constrains and forces her to view or use products on certain browsers and internet speed. I want to ask: how well does the product fail?

But isn’t falling in love with the user unprofessional? Aren’t we designers supposed to collect data and obssess over metrics charts and follow step-by-step design methods in our toolboxes before we could put effort into covering the basics of expressing our humanity? What is empathy anyways? Aren’t we supposed to take ownership and responsibility to build for the people and the world we care about?

Back to her. She has a wonderful smile and laughs like a snoring pig, especially when things touch her in the most unexpected and promising way. She reminds me that in as much as technology evolve, it is here to enhance and embrace us. She inspires me to continue crafting journeys and flows that are delightful and look delicious—if there’s that kind of a thing. To design with her in heart and mind.

So when you ask about her I smile and confess: she makes me a better person. A better designer. She makes me want to see the world differently from her point of view and of others. To be compassionate as a creator of products that others use. To see small humane details I might have overlooked in the past. She reminds me that it’s not only just her. That she is different from me; and you; and others.

She teaches me that the products we build are not the same for everyone. That meeting and getting to know those who we make products for, and developing empathy is the first step to building technology that embraces humanity. She opens all my five senses about accessibility and diversity and inclusion. Empowering me to keep on asking questions even if they might be silly or going nowhere like a train of thought disappearing into the fog.