User Friendly

A recent thread on LinkedIn discusses how user experience professionals can answer the question “What do you do for a living?” One contributor wrote:

“I help companies make their products more user friendly.” That’s a term most people understand. If they ask follow up questions I will go into more detail.

The term “user friendly” makes me think of the nineties, as in “Mac is more user friendly than Windows.” I hesitate before using it, because as a software designer, I want to go beyond “friendly” and make interfaces that are also more powerful, more fun, more educational.

But I too have found that “user friendly” is the term that normal (non-UX) people understand. We naturally anthropomorphize computers, and want to know whether they are friendly, like a person we would choose to spend time with.

Designers create this “user experience” via methods such as “human-centered design”, “user research”, “advocating” and “interaction design”… but these are all technical terms that don’t mean much to people outside the field.

What people really want to know is whether the end product will feel like a friend.

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