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The Singular User Experience

A friend mentioned that she loved Starbuck's coffee, but always ends up ordering the same thing because the menu overwhelms her. My husband always shops at Billa instead of Fantastico because of the self-checkout machines. I tend to read on a Kindle instead of hardback because, though I like the weight of hardcover, ebooks are easier to take on the metro.

Once you get into the mindset of UX, it's hard not to see it all around you. It's also hard to ignore the fact that not everyone processes things the same way. I won't go into an empty clothing store because I feel watched; I also won't go to one that's insanely busy, because it quickly becomes overwhelming. But my husband's comfortable in both settings, are hardly registers the difference. Should things stay the way they are since most people don't care, or change because some find it a problem?

In UX, it can be a challenge to balance user experience and a user's experience. You can't please everyone, and if you try, several pitfalls become a danger:

  • Putting too much stock into one user's feedback

  • Relying on a persona that limits possibilities

  • Making content or design decisions based on generalities

These problems are on varying sides of the scale, but they're all worth avoiding. Too many times, a feature is created or a word is changed because one user vocalised their opinion. Or, a user's feedback was ignored as an outlier. Roadmap items are abandoned for side projects; or, bugs are ignored because only one person cared enough to report it. Neither extreme seems right.

Telling the difference between helpful and fringe experiences requires careful thought, especially for UX writers. How do we know when take suggestions, research, and requests to heart? When is it worth getting sidetracked? When a PM or user wants to change a term, or redesign a page's hierarchy, how can we know if it's the right step forward? To start, consider:

  • The value - Will the outcome outweigh the effort?

  • The whole - Will enough users benefit?

  • The vision - Does the change align with our voice, tone, and content strategy?

Of course, general content knowledge comes into play here as well. A tooltip shouldn't be turned into passive voice just because someone thinks it "sounds better." Changes and decisions need to be intentional, and keep both the user and users in mind. Again: no choice is right 100% of the time. Someone will always disagree with anything you do. But as long as that decision was made intentionally, with consideration for both individuals and all users in mind, you're heading in the right direction.

Some users will never switch from their personal French press to Starbucks, and that's okay. That doesn't mean the entire business model should change. If I want a colourful, sugar-filled drink, I know Starbucks is the right place to go (one venti iced chai latte, please). The company won't switch their focus entirely to black coffee just because that's what some people want; it's not their market. I'd be confused if their landing page suddenly focused on the quality of roast, or if the green straws disappeared. If Starbucks changed up the menu and branding every time a customer voiced an opinion, they'd no longer be recognizable. Do they serve plain coffee? Sure. But that's not their focus.

Give your content the same respect: whatever product or company you're working for has to serve a specific type of user. Content created for everyone works for no one. Be inclusive but have direction; be open to feedback but clear about your goals; write for your users, not the whole world.


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