Putting the “You” in User

31 January 2023 Martin Cheetham

Whenever I need to change a bike tyre or complete some task that I only perform once every couple of years, I usually search for a quick video. I have so many things to think about on a daily basis, that this is information that my Gen X brain just doesn’t need (or want) to retain.

It recently came to my attention that there may be better ways for me to find what I’m looking for rather than my conventional Google or YouTube approach (the clue is in the image;)

So I put it to the test – and my search experience played out something like this:

I’m needing to attend a wedding, and it’s been a while since I last had to wear a tie. I know I want a Windsor knot, but I need a refresher on how exactly to do it. I’m also in a rush as I need to get going. So I jump onto YouTube on my phone and search for a quick ‘how-to’ video. I tap on the first one, that seems to be short and concise (and has a great thumbnail). Suddenly I’m greeted by Billy…

“Hi my name is Billy. And welcome to Billy’s tie-tying channel. Don’t forget to smash that like button if you dig what you see. And that notification bell. Don’t forget about that. Ok, so today I’m going to tell you how to tie a Windsor knot. But first, sit through my ridiculously long flashy animated intro that I spent countless hours designing. And because I spent that time, you need to see it. And before we get into that – have I told you yet about how amazing this Dragon Butt energy drink is? No, then let me spend a couple more minutes of your time telling you. Cos they’re sponsoring me and if you don’t guzzle their liquid, I don’t get paid.”

And on it goes…

I’m now 40 seconds into this without knowing yet how to tie a Windsor knot! I’m also 40 seconds later for the wedding and getting more desperate to get out of the house. Forget this. So I open TikTok instead, do the same search and instantly have a short, 10 second video showing me exactly what I need. No flashy intros, no ads, no BS. Just the content I actually needed.

What started as a fun platform, full of weird dance crazes now may become the best video search platform. It’s not how or why it’s been designed, but it’s how certain people will use it.

“Users will achieve their objectives with the aid of or in spite of your design.” – Martin Cheetham (Gentleman & Scholar)

It is crucial to conduct research with the users of your platform to understand how they really use it. Not your intention of use or assumptions. But how they actually use it. And more importantly, why.

Your platform needs to be giving them more of what they want and less of what they don’t. Or eventually, they’ll jump ship when another platform gives them what they need.