Can you make good design for people if you’re a lousy person yourself?

Interesting article on “being human” as a UX designer.

I’ve encountered UX people who didn’t strike me as particularly good humans, consequently lowering my trust as a client in their ability to engineer experiences that would appeal to humans. If you’re not a nice person, can you really design what is essentially an avatar of what your audience should see as a nice person?

Orson Welles and Harlan Ellison were/are known for being huge a-holes to work with, but on the ‘customer facing’ side, they’ve produced some astounding works of art. Maybe there’s a base level of good UX that everyone is capable of – stock common sense principles you get in any textbook – and it only gets better from there depending on how well you think critically and apply those principles to the problem at hand.

Personally, I want to believe that being a decent human being translates to putting out decent work. Even if we can’t be so magnanimous and noble, maybe the effort that goes in can’t help but lend itself to empathic, thoughtful solutions. But that’s just my little dream.

Maybe you don’t need to be a cool guy to make cool stuff – but I’m sure it’s more fun to work with someone who can do both. 😉


The Personality Principle


If your interface has personality, good or bad aesthetics, quality, flow, satisfaction, or fulfilment are not important; I’d probably even go as far as saying that usability is not important either. Personality trumps all the rest because it is the only one that can give the user an emotionally valuable engagement with the software engineering artefact. There are no tests for this principle, if it has personality you’ll know it!

Source: The Personality Principle [#ux], Thinking Out Loud

This guy makes an interesting point. I don’t know if I could prove that aesthetics, quality and flow are unimportant, but personality (or lack of personality) does tend to cut through all of that stuff. When our site lacks personality, our users certainly have no qualms telling us about it. 😐

Think of someone you know. Think of surface stuff like how they dress, what they do, how they talk, what they drive, their mannerisms and body language. Now think of below-the-surface stuff like their emotionality or lack thereof, their reactivity or stability, their capacity for empathy, their likes and dislikes, their respect for boundaries, sense of humour and how they treat you as a person.

You can make two good arguments here:

1. That if someone’s below-the-surface stuff impresses you, you probably won’t mind so much how they dress or the annoying habits they have. Similarly, if they’ve upset you somehow, even a slip of the tongue or misplaced elbow will give you the shits. Therefore, you could say the below-the-surface stuff – personality – does trump the superficial aspects.

2. When getting to know someone, their superficial aspects are what you see first, and may effectively prime you to interpret their below-the-surface traits in a biased way. If you hate black because it reminds you of bad kids in school, then someone wearing black all the time might start you down the winding road of misjudgment (this is an extreme example; we’re all way smarter than that!). Here, you could say the surface stuff – aesthetics, quality, flow – are actually very important.

So, websites:

Do you think personality trumps all, stands on equal footing, or doesn’t matter?

Have you seen a site with loads of personality – how did you feel about it next to a site with no personality?

What do you reckon are the risks of designing and launching a site that’s functionally and aesthetically sound, but has the personality of mayonnaise?