I have a confession to make. I’ve never been a big fan of UX.

Anything that it markets itself under an acronym should be grounds enough to make you suspicious.

Here is a design discipline with the stated aim of improving the ease of use and interaction between customers and digital products, and it can’t even be bothered to make its own name intelligible.

For the uninitiated UX is short for User Experience. And has spawned a whole market in a design practice known as User Experience Design.

The end product here is largely digital. Websites, apps and so on. And the digital world is full of language that is not human. So if you haven’t sorted your SEO, from your PPC, or your CMS from your CSS, your ‘earned media’ from your ‘paid media’, then I’m sorry my friend, UX is not for you.

Aside from the semantics, I have a few other issues with UX.

One – everything covered by UX is just design. All good design should have a purpose either to communicate to, or facilitate use by its intended audience. If it does that great, if it doesn’t then its just bad design, period.

Since the dawn of time we have always designed for others. To use a friends of mines analogy, you create a smaller spear for your shorter friend or you create two handles for a basket if it needs to be carried by a couple. Designing for an intended audience is one of absolute basic and original skills developed by humans.

I also have a issue with the word User? Yes it might clearly help differentiate between an old school passive broadcast audience, with an active participant. But do you really want to be known as and refer to others as ‘Users’?. A user of what? Drugs? A more impersonal term for HUMAN beings its hard to think of. ‘I went our to the pub last night with some of my users’. ‘Hi, I’m Al, I’m a user…’ etc

Thirdly, and you’ll have to excuse me here, it’s a discipline that at worst assumes people are all idiots.

‘Oh UX says the buy button must be bottom right and in blue’. Just because some data exists that says on some sites or even this site that might be statistically better, it doesn’t mean its the only solution, and it doesn’t mean that humans (yes humans), aren’t capable of adjusting to change, and, might even enjoy a world where everything doesn’t look, act and feel the same. And that is often a big problem of UX thinking and design. Sites slavishly following this methodology often end up looking the same. And I’ve never understood why companies want to make themselves indistinguishable from one another.

And indeed this can often be a problem with digital world thinking. The insights often come solely from data. More people do, or say, or behave like this than that, so this is the way to do it. The problem with this kind of thinking is that by definition the data is based on what has happened rather than what could happen. Therefore, when abused, it can stifle anything new, anything imaginative, anything intuitive, anything with heart. The Data says no.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Henry Ford

It’s why Google is very good at products that are functional such as search, because they are based on data. But has been far less successful at creative or social products such as Google+ for social media, or even Google Glass, which requires an imagination and understanding of human behaviour beyond the data driven mindset of most engineers. It’s why when asked if Google would follow Netflix into making TV, the CEO said no, ‘because we’d just end up making bad episodes of Star Trek.’

‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.’

Albert Einstein

The point is, we’re human. We are messy and imperfect. We are made of rational and irrational emotive thought. And you know what, on average the emotive side wins over the rational every time. (Check the… ahem…data…).

So I’m going to start a new school of thinking. Great Human Experiences, (or GHE for short for the lazy and guarded).


Great Human Experiences is about making, Great Human Experiences for real people, in the real world. Things that you and I might love and want to remember, as well as simply being easy to use. Inspired, joyful, magical and different. In products, things, happenings, conversations, work places, homes, words, pictures, on line, offline everywhere.

Making moments, movements and memories.

With love and respect for humans.

Experience, after all, is everything.




4 thoughts on “Move aside UX, step back big data. It’s time for Great Human Experiences (GHE…?).

  1. An enjoyable piece thank you Alastair! I tend to agree with you. Do we really all want to keep playing it safe throughout our lives – staying with the Status Quo… like sheep!… or little children following the Pied Piper – what if the tune turns out to be ‘one that woos us over the cliff. At what point will we notice? Lets stand out from the crowd with our Great Human Experience and share with those who dare!

  2. I hate the term users too. If my baptism at the corporate monster Disney taught me anything, it was to call your visitors guests, either at their parks or at their websites.. Which is kinda nice.!!

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