UX: Insulting the user’s intelligence passive-aggressively

A man with an incredulous look
Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde on Unsplash

Skip to the Principles

This title isn’t a slight on UX personnel or the user; it’s just an overly-simplified description (not definition) of it. “UX” is a loaded term anyway, arguing over its definition is pointless.

I’ve written a great deal on accessibility. I’ve given it the description of “increasing the availability of content for the maximum number of people”. I can advocate for that description, but I’m not interested in arguing with someone over it.

And it doesn’t matter to me how anyone else defines it. Are you working towards increasing the availability of content? If so, I don’t give a rip what your definition of accessibility is. You’re making progress on that front; that’s what matters.

The same is true for UX. The purpose of my description isn’t for textbook definitions or formal documentation. The purpose is for humans to understand the concept. In other words, my description of UX is my attempt to make understanding it usable… for me — and, hopefully, for you.

I choose to think of UX as insulting the user’s intelligence passive-aggressively. I don’t think the user is dumb, but I’d prefer to make the user’s consumption of the content slightly more difficult than breathing.

That helps me follow the principles below.

There’s certainly overlap in these principles, but this list isn’t meant to be precise or comprehensive — it’s meant to lead you in the right direction. For the most part, the principles are ordered from the most broad to the most specific.

Principle #1: Don’t make the user think

Your user isn’t on your site for a mental exercise. They are there to accomplish something — so, they shouldn’t have to figure out anything in order to do it.

Principle #2: Don’t make the user guess

Avoid disabling controls, abiguous link or button text, and unclear validation messages.

Principle #3: Don’t make the user wait

Categorized as UX

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