Are Designers Focused Enough on User Needs?

On his asterisk site a while ago, D. Keith Robinson explores some things that he feels are more important than web standards. He claims, after receiving multiple emails from people complaining that his site doesn’t validate, that designers seem to be overly-focused on writing validating markup instead of more user-centered issues. Unfortunately for Mr. Robinson, […]

On his asterisk site a while ago, D. Keith Robinson explores some things that he feels are more important than web standards. He claims, after receiving multiple emails from people complaining that his site doesn’t validate, that designers seem to be overly-focused on writing validating markup instead of more user-centered issues.

Unfortunately for Mr. Robinson, many readers misinterpreted the article as inferring that designing with standards and designing for the user are mutually-exclusive.

They’re not. But often I find that many designers give much more of their time to learning the latest standards trick than learning the latest “designing for users” trick. Here are a few reasons why this may be so:

  1. They might simply be coders. Not that coding is simple, but it might be the only thing in their job description.
  2. It’s much easier to do. To learn one facet of design is much easier than learning two. And this one thing can be very time-consuming in itself.
  3. It’s often much more comfortable to stick to standards. Learning about other people is hard work. It may not seem hard, but it certainly takes concentration and imagination. To learn about why someone thinks the way they do is one of the most fundamental problems of being human. And its hard.
  4. It’s often the only thing that is necessary. By learning standards (learning to code), designers can complete projects, get paid, and move on to their next project. They probably won’t be held accountable for the usability of what they did.
  5. They might not care and/or think about how easy it is for others to use their design. This may be the single highest hurdle to overcome. Designers fluctuate between fulfilling their own creative instincts and fulfilling the duties of their job. If their job doesn’t force them to design for users, then why would they care?
Published: December 27th, 2003

Currently working on:

The What to Wear Daily Report: The most informative 30 seconds of your day. An email that delivers clothing recommendations and other helpful info based on the weather. Remarkably useful. It's free to sign up.