When did UX become an entitlement?

Users are the worst.

Don’t get me wrong, I love UX; I’ve been a UX designer for over ten years.

But SOMETIMES!

Today’s users have technology at their fingertips, which, twenty years ago, was unthinkable, even in our accelerating era of technology. They can buy houses, bank, book holidays, date online, inform the planet about what they ate every evening, and watch Avatar, all on a handheld device.

And yet they still complain! I’ve been in meetings where the sole discussion was that “the users don’t like to click” or “the users don’t like to scroll.”

UX has turned into a religion, and the user is declared holy.

Even we UX designers have become high priests. I was working on a project for a publishing firm. A project owner for a publication wanted to add some functionality to his online product. He had been a product owner of that product for five years. He regularly met his users at conferences and through feedback sessions and workgroups. He had a razor-thin budget. He had it all planned out, but corporate said he had to go through the new UX process. So we stopped his planning, did “research,” charged his budget $10,000,- and after a month’s delay, told him that what he wanted to do was probably a good idea. He was not happy.

Take MidJourney, the AI imagining software. At the time of writing, they have the user interface from hell. You have to use Discord, then use esoteric prompts with a steep learning curve. It’s a terrible UX, but the user finds his way because the value is at the end. Of course, maybe more people would use it if the UX was better, but if they had spent their resources on the UX and less on the end product, would that still be true? And would they keep coming back?

I’ve been in User Acceptance Testing, where users are asked about some insignificant UI element, and their knee-jerk, uninformed reaction is taken as gospel. Twenty professional designers, product managers, and developers have created an amazing product, but some bozo off the street doesn’t like the color blue, so it’s back to the drawing board.

So you know what, Mr. User? Put the kids to bed, feed the dog, turn off Game of Thrones, finish the pizza, and concentrate on what you are doing. Show respect for the technology.

You don’t like clicking? So you don’t want to lift your index finger up and down more than once to find your future partner?

Scroll? Do you hate moving that heavy mouse 3/4 of an inch to the right to discover your dream house?

Sir, step away from the technology; you don’t deserve it.

I showed a colleague the first site I designed and developed (I didn’t know it then, but I was user testing). She didn’t understand it and couldn’t complete any tasks. I, of course, wrote her off as not being the sharpest pencil. But then the following user and the following user struggled. Until finally defeated, I went back to the drawing board. It was a terrible UX.

But that was then, and this is now. We are much better at UX and understand the pitfalls and the best practices. And the user is more mature, experienced, and tech-savvy.

So, let’s stop pampering. Let’s make demands. If you, as a user, want to operate a fantastic site — an excellent digital product — you have to put on your big boy pants and put in the work. Set your personal preferences so we can tailor the experience better for you. It’s good for you. But you don’t, because you have to click a few times. Or even scroll.

Quick side note: Pampering comes from the island Pampers, which is close to the port of Amsterdam, where sailors coming back from the Far East would be quarantined before docking. Local services and prostitutes would “pamper” the waiting sailors in exchange for money and probably a tropical disease.

Are we designing where the user doesn’t have to think, but in doing that, we think too much for them?

The role of the UX designer is to be the dumbest in the room. He needs to evangelize for the user who is elsewhere, doesn’t know or care about the product, and is distracted (looking at you, Game of Thrones).

But do we need to sell the user short on excellent functionality because of this? When Google developed Sheets, the online spreadsheet program, they included Pivot Tables and Auto Save. Pivot Tables was removed because nobody was using it (yet). Auto Save was replaced with a Save button that did nothing as Auto Save was running in the background; the user just wanted to click something to feel it was being saved (yes, ironic.)

Put the User back into the experience. Are we spending time and money making click-free digital products as if clicks were some sort of gluten? Instead, couldn’t that talent, time, energy, and money be invested in something that challenges the user? Is UX forcing us into mediocrity?

How can we designers innovate without alienating users? How can designers lead users towards more complex and rewarding digital experiences without falling into the trap of oversimplification?

I think the users are ready.