Users Don’t Know What They Want…Or What They do

We’ve heard it time and time again: People don’t know what they want. We’ve heard it from usability experts and UX designers…

To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior. (Jakob Nielson, First Rule of Usability? Don’t Listen to Users)

You can’t ask users outright what they want. You get theoretical answers. You don’t get the answers that result from real choices in real situations. You don’t get the truth about how people think and work. (Robert Hoekman, Designing the Obvious)

The “listen to your users” produces incoherent designs. The “ignore your users” can produce horror stories, unless the person in charge has a clear vision for the product, what I have called the “Conceptual Model.” The person in charge must follow that vision and not be afraid to ignore findings. Yes, listen to customers, but don’t always do what they say. (Donal Norman, Human Centered Design Considered Harmful“)

We’ve heard it from Apple…

You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new. (Steve Jobs, quoted in “The Entrepreneur of the Decade“)

And we’ve heard it from pop-culture (thanks, George, for reminding me of this example):

[Homor’s half-brother] Herb decided his company needed a new car that would appeal to the “average” American. Despite the many objections of Herb’s employees, Herb encouraged Homer to follow his instincts in creating a car that American consumers would want to buy. Homer took charge of the project after Herb encouraged him to obey his gut when it came to what kind of car he wanted. Motors. (Simpsons Wiki, “The Homer”)

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