Language matters. How you describe something frames your reference. One of the problems with so much software is that it is designed for generic “users” (typically UML stickmen) who may also have roles, but don’t have lives. Why this obsession with users? Everybody “uses” things. Surely the important thing is to understand the nuances of that usage, and that means thinking about real people. Josh Bernoff wrote a while ago,
Nobody talks about users of dishwashers, or users of retail stores, or users of telephones. So why are we talking about “users” of computers, browsers, and software?
Try, just for a day, to stop using this word. You’ll be amazed at how differently you think about the world.
Stop thinking about “users” and start thinking about people. Personas are a good way to start doing this. Get all your stakeholders thinking about the people whose lives will be touched by the product that is being developed.
Jeremiah Owyang updated his model of what web strategy is. It’s a cool model and worth a look. One of the things he has done is changed the word “users” to “community”.
One of the comments from Connie Bensen reads:
“I recently had a discussion about verbiage on our corporate website & heard the phrase ‘those words are industry standards’. Well, customers don’t know them. An analogy from the library world is that I took down the sign saying ‘periodicals’. It now reads magazines. (a shift towards making things customer friendly)”
I like that. It is a subtle change, and when I’ve argued with colleagues in the past about the difference between users and customers and consumers they just don’t see the point. What is wrong with users, after all it is the language of the industry. Yes, that maybe, but it is not the language outside our industry and they are the people that we build applications for.