Cozying up to the sushi bar for the first time is an adventure for many. That includes my mother who, upon seeing a ball of wasabi, exclaimed... “Guacamole!” She then popped the entire ball into her mouth. 

Her lack of sushi experience combined with a passion for guacamole led her down a dark path of regret. Tears. Pitchers of water. Everyone including the sushi chefs rolled with laughter at her expense. But now she knows the joy of guac, the punch of wasabi, and the difference between the two.  

UX has been a hot topic of the past few years. In fact, it has seemed to take over the digital design landscape in total. But what does it really mean? And you may be asking yourself, “What does her mother’s unfortunate wasabi experience have to do with UX?” My mother came to the sushi bar armed with the prior knowledge that a mound of something green and edible-looking is probably guac. Unfortunately, she was totally inexperienced in the sushi bar dining. 

UX designers also have to think about what prior knowledge they come with when they’re thinking about design for a product, and recognize that their users may not have the same understanding as them. A good UX designer understands what qualifies as “common knowledge” and knows if their main audience has it.

I know what Guacamole looks like! What’s wasabi?

Shared research, along with the methods and tools we use, are transforming the way we think about design. Knowing your user has become a must. It’s no longer acceptable to go with your gut. Instead, embrace the feedback from your users and be prepared to redesign. 

But, what if you don’t have any user testing to help you? How do you develop expertise to better understand the user you’re designing for at the current moment? 

Place yourself in the shoes of your user by asking questions like...

  • Who am I and what am I trying to do?
  • What actions are most important to me?
  • How do I get to where I want to go?
  • Is discovering how to use this product fun or would I rather receive instruction?
  • Does my knowledge of tech limit my experience?
  • What device am I most likely to use?
  • Does this remind me of any other digital products that I enjoy? Why?
  • Is this experience worth my time?
  • Could I describe this product or service to a parent?

These types of questions can go on and on, but taking a few minutes to recenter your thinking can change the course of a project. It can also get you back in the user’s corner when discerning changes from the client. And that’s no knock against clients. When you uncover a user’s needs and think through previous knowledge, biases, and context — you’ll better serve the user and your client in the same stroke. 

So here’s to generous scoops of guac on a burrito, sparing smears of wasabi on sushi and empowering the user by developing a functional design customized to them.

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