Pants. I put them on every weekday

At Company L2, we had an entire development team dedicated to our internally-produced content authoring tool. Every two weeks, the team displayed what it had accomplished and prioritized requests from their primary stakeholders, the content development group. The end result? The tool became so byzzantinely complex that the authoring group had to hire a team of technicians to use the tool for them. And even the techs screwed it up sometimes. Robert Paulson[1] accidentally replaced every picture of a car in every product in every language with a picture of a big white pick-up truck. Hail, versioning. 

I’ve made a lot internal-facing toolsets since then, ranging from commercial loan origination tools to content management systems. And I’ve had better final results than that old CL2 team. We have better tools for listening now. Ten years ago, it was standard to listen to stakeholders and end users about what they wanted. This is the marketing mindset. The real change has been now we listen to people talk about their goals and problems and we observe their actions in context. This is the UX mindset. People are experts in their own problems. They understand their motivations far better than we ever could. But they’re pretty poor at solving their problems. 

It’s a pretty simple division of labor. The end user is responsible for the why and we’re responsible for the what.

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1. All names have been changed to protect the innocent.