Forget Users, Think People


We have a problem in this industry. We live in a world where we constantly think about the “users” of our software. In that identification, we dehumanize the People that are using our system. While this is a small detail, we have to remember one thing…

Words Matter.

Everywhere I look, in proposals, requirements, and manuals, the People that use the system are referred to as Users.

Not Writers.

Not Publishers.

Not Creators.

Not People.

It is pervasive. We hold User Conferences. We write User Manuals. We assign User IDs.

The cruel thing is that we don’t do it to ourselves. There are developer conferences. The creators of the software get to be People, why not those who have to live with the software?

We even try and perfect the User Experience.

Why are we not working on the Human Experience?

Why do we insist on calling the People whom our software helps users? We aren’t pushing a drug. If we were, more People would be willing to use it.

imageDrugs are addictive. Content Management software is not.

One thing that we do have in common, aside from calling People “users”, is that we have to push People to use the software. We have to convince them to take that first step in using the software. People view the software as dangerous, a risk, something to be avoided.

We need to change this approach. As Content Professionals, we need to think of everyone as People. The first step is to change the way we talk.

I am not trying to help users.

I am helping People.

3 thoughts on “Forget Users, Think People

  1. Fully get where you are coming from as regards to referring to people as “users”. I often feel uncomfortable with the term too when writing documentation. The problem is that as soon as you move away from the generic term “users” and get specific (e.g. “publishers”, “administrators”, “engineers”, etc) then you open yourself up to missing categories of people out … as by default “users” could be anyone.

    Same in the retail sector when referring to “consumers”. If you get specific and start referring to “males between age 20-35” or “working mums”, etc then what you are writing about needs to be very specific. If not then easier to just call them “consumers”.

    So the term “users” isn’t great, but sometimes not practical to get more specific.

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