Watching people, rather than asking people 00:19 on Wednesday

This is something that started in a comment earlier this year:

I obviously don’t have much to base my belief on, but I do rather believe in watching the people than asking the people.

I acknowledge that a lot of bad decisions based on asking the people are a result of simply taking the answers literally, ie. not asking the five whys. Taking an example from Tommi’s post on S60 Address Book, someone asked to be able to undo edits in the address book. Well, a nice idea! But the only reason was because the user was deleting contacts accidentally — so the better approach would be to fix the problem of accidental deletion rather than do what is being asked, and add yet another feature, the undo.

I do believe (without any grounds ;) that by watching the users, more radical improvements to the user experience are possible. Improvements on stuff that aren’t perceived by the users anymore, stuff that has become status quo, things that “are the way they are because they’ve always been that way”. Improvements that take features to the next level rather than tinker with them on the current level. Revolutionary improvements rather than incremental improvements.

It sounds like I’m talking about radical R&D and experimental prototypes (which I do love) but really I’m not. I believe in small opportunities for change which — if found — can quite radically change the user experience. And I don’t believe those can be found by asking.

I could be wrong. Would love to be wrong, actually. :)

One Response to “Watching people, rather than asking people”


  1. PA Says:

    Or like Jobs once said: “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”