Where’s my burrito? (And other user research questions…)

24 January 2023 Martin Cheetham

I’ve been reading Mark Manson’s book about hope “Everything is f*cked”. In it, he talks about using people or things as a means to an end.

Here is an excerpt from his book which explains it far better than I can:

Let’s pretend that I’m hungry and I want a burrito. I get in my car and drive to Chipotle and order my usual double-meat monster that makes me oh so happy. In this situation, eating the burrito is my “end” goal. It’s ultimately why I’m doing everything else: getting in the car, driving, buying gas, and so on. All these things I do to get the burrito are the “means,” i.e., the things I must do in order to achieve my “end.” Means are things that we do conditionally. They are what we bargain with. I don’t want to get in my car and drive, and I don’t want to pay for gas, but I do want a burrito. Therefore, I must do these other things to get that burrito.

So this got me thinking about how we use technology as a means to our end. It’s a tool used to help us achieve our objectives.

As users, we are trying to achieve an objective. I don’t come to use a website or app just for the fun of it*. I am trying to get something done. To achieve my “end”.

We need to make sure we understand our user’s end. And make it as quick and painless as possible to get there.

“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” – Professor Theodore Levitt

This is where user research comes in. Developing personas to understand who the user is, enables us to find the right people to research with. Then it’s about uncovering their ‘ends’ (commonly referred to as Jobs to be Done or JTBD). And understanding how to help them get there quickly. And, ideally joyfully.

And when I say joyfully I don’t mean it in the skipping and dancing form of the word. I mean it in the “wow, that was really quick and easy” form. Because experiencing joy with any interface is usually caused through the saving of time with no frustrations. We’re relatively easy to please these days, but there are so many platforms designed to save us time that actually do quite the opposite.

We need to constantly be researching with the people who use our digital platforms to ensure we are in touch with what they want and need. Or they’ll simply go somewhere else.


*Even a game is usually a form of escape – I might be sitting in a queue and trying to pass the time. Or I’m trying to destress and get my mind off other things.