Technologists and developers love to talk about the best tools for building new technology. MERN or MEAN stack, functional vs. object-oriented programming, vanilla development or frameworks. The internet is ripe with these discussions and attend any tech meetup and you’ll easily find multiple discussions comparing one tool to another. The performance and usability of one over the other, as if that is the goal.
There’s nothing wrong with these techie debates; tools make our jobs easier and there’s nothing wrong with searching for the best one. Yet the problem lies when these discussions dominate the conversation. We seem to care more about what we use to develop the product instead of the actual product.
Yes, user experience (UX) has become a heavy focus for many companies, but it has also become its own silo. You can find many UX specialists now who know everything about user research and creating amazing experiences for users, but don’t have the ability to build that experience into an application. At the same time you have plenty of developers and engineers who have the ability to create complex and high-performance applications, but little of their time is spent connecting with the people who will use these applications to improve their lives.
Photo by Farzad Nazifi on Unsplash.
Notice I said connecting—not thinking. Agile practices on many software development teams put high priority on thinking about the user and attempting to create applications that benefit the experience. Yet so much time is spent on the technology itself, how much mental energy do you think is spent truly understanding what the user wants. If we are constantly debating technology or improving our processes and tools, how much time can we really claim is spent on the user?
Let’s say my team is creating an application targeting young women who enjoy shopping. I could write a user story that says: “As a woman, I want to see daily deals based on my shopping history so I can see new outfit options without searching.” This sounds great, but what if we have no young women on our team who like to shop?
Yet that wouldn’t stop most development teams from believing they can create an application targeting these individuals without truly understanding their motivations and emotions. Why do they like to shop? What do they feel when clicking the buy button? Do they feel any regret if they spend too much money? These are questions no one will probably ask if they don’t understand their target audience. Instead they will focus on their objective, getting the user to purchase. Then they will spend much of their time focused on the technology and their chosen tools to accomplish that objective.
The point of all this is that as technologists, we should start focusing more on connecting with and understanding the people who use our technology. As companies we should start putting heavier focus on the potential of candidates instead of their current skills. The end result is not the technology itself, the end result is creating a world that makes the human existence not just tolerable, but truly enjoyable.