While freelancing during the past decade, I had my fair share of tough clients.
From swoop-and-poopers to nickel-and-dimers, I found myself contractually committed to some pretty frustrating people. Sure, working with bad clients is about as fun as watching Fifty Shades of Gray with your parents, but it’s part of the education you receive while going through the school of hard knocks.
If you ask me, bad clients pale in comparison to another insidious condition of the design industry. We all know that every discipline has its own set of overcomplicated buzzwords meant to hide the fact that many in that profession have no idea what the hell they’re talking about, but in this case, I’m talking about one tiny word.
This word has become bastardized beyond repair.
Not only has it been stripped of any meaning — it shouldn’t have been introduced in the first place.
Ready for the big reveal?
I know, I can be a little overdramatic, but can you blame me?
I understand why designers are obsessed with this word. It gives us a convenient label for the people who use the products and services we help design.
What else would you call them?
Much like how many of us take free Wi-Fi or a college education for granted, we have also started taking these people for granted.
We claim to care about their goals and pain points as we conduct user interviews.
We claim to have empathy for them as we lump them into user personas (another term that grinds my gears) for our own convenience.
We gather user feedback and then present a final product in which, many times, these people have no choice but to use.
If you ask me, we’re the ones using them.
Let me rephrase that — the companies and institutions we work for are using them. As if this wasn’t bad enough, when we use this word, we’re also giving our clients permission to use it.
We might as well be calling their customers, “Mudbloods.”
Thanks to the word “user”, we now have to answer a question more popular than, “What house are you in?”²