November 23, 2005

Creating Passionate Users: Subvert from Within: a user-focused employee guide

Creating Passionate Users: Subvert from Within: a user-focused employee guide

Well, having overcome my resistance to Kathy Sierra (mainly due to a certain person's continually over-the-top hyperventilating), I followed Doug's link and found some great stuff. Here's my pick. What are yours?
Capture user stories.
Keep a notebook or hipster PDA with you always and whenever another employee, blogger, (or user) tells you something good or bad about a real user's experience, write it down. Build up a collection, and make sure these stories are spread. Be the user's advocate in your group and keep putting real users in front of employees (especially managers). Imagine that you are the designated representative (like the public defender) of specific users, and represent them. Speak for them....

Never underestimate the power of paper.
Print out little signs that say things like, "How does this help the user kick ass?" and leave them lying on the copier, or the fax machine, or taped on a bulletin board and your cube/office wall. Keep changing them! (Remember, once your brain expects to see it, it stops being effective.)

Get your hands on a video camera, and record some users.

Start a subversive club. Right there on campus, recruit and organize your fellow ULA guerillas.


Blog about it
People are listening.

Challenge user-unfriendly assumptions every day.
When someone says, "We can't do that" or "We must do it this way" question it. Every time. Don't let anything go unchallenged. And when the answer is "because customers don't like it that way" or "customers want..." or something like that, always ask, "How do we know this?" (just act curious).

Gather facts. Build a rational, logical case that maps a user-centric approach to real business issues.
You don't want to get into an opinion war. You want facts and stats on your side. If you can point to a specific plan for a feature change, for example, and say, "Well, when we did something similar over here in this area, we had a complaint ratio of..." The more "emotional" and touchy-feely someone perceives the emphasis on users to be, the less likely they are to take it seriously as a business case. There are always going to be a lot of people in the company who refuse to care about the real people, but they will care about numbers, so you should always be trying to prove that the user-kicks-ass approach has a compelling benefit for the business (beyond the obvious one that you and any other system thinker would see). We learned the hard way that we should never take it for granted that other people in the company will even think about this idea of the user being passionate and in flow.

Look for first-person language from users about their own experience. Challenge others to solicit first-person, user-as-subject language.

Don't give up.

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