Forget your mother

When designing online products it happens to refer to the future people who are supposed to use them.

We want to create products that can be used by the masses we put a lot of thinking into how ordinary people, without specific training, would be acting towards our design choices.

And way too often when we mean some user of this kind we refer to our mother.

“Imagine my mother doing this, or doing that…”, “my mother would not be be able to use this”, “my mother would click here and there”.

Let’s stop it. Referring to your mother does not tell me anything about how ordinary users behave, it just tells me a lot about the consideration you have about your own mom.





7 responses to “Forget your mother”

  1. hmunro Avatar

    BRAVO! My mother happens to speak five languages and for 20 years ran a small, successful company — while raising four teenagers — so the suggestion that I imagine her as a “persona” of the average clueless user always rankled me. Thank you for making this wonderful point.

  2. Paolo Avatar

    I disagree with this point of view. This type of reference is actually useful, because what it says is: “Here’s a non tech savvy user that happens to be a person I respect, so you can’t say that she doesn’t get it because she’s dumb.”

    It’s a different way of saying: “the user is always right”; if he does not understand the interface, then the interface is wrong, not the user.

    Which is why it’s called “user interface” and not “designer interface” or “developer interface”.

    1. Luca Sartoni Avatar

      It’s discriminatory on many levels, actually.

        1. Luca Sartoni Avatar

          It always refers to women, statistically older than who speaks. And if I believe you refer to your mother with great respect, mostly we refer to these personas as “the dumb ones”. I’m sure we can find gender/age agnostic personas to refer to, and that be way more respectful to our parents.

  3. Paolo Avatar

    Hmm, so this discriminatory aspect is embedded in your original post. I personally also use “my father”, “my uncle”, and “my friend Raoul” interchangeably, but here I was replying to your example.

  4. Paolo Avatar

    Oh, and by the way, moms are not “statistically older” than their sons and daughters, they are just plain older, always. 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *