Is Listening To Users Harmful?

Here’s an interesting take on an example of where using one’s own experience and intuition is better than relying exclusively on user feedback.

“We changed our entire program because WE knew we could do better. Because WE were still frustrated that people weren’t learning quickly enough or progressing through the higher levels as well as we thought they could. People still weren’t having the kind of relationship with their horse that we knew they could have, even though our students were delighted with the progress they were making. So we changed it all.”

I’d have to say I find this to be an extremely insightful entry. Often times I find myself making changes to something new and cool I’ve came-up with on a given product because “9384290384 customers” (AKA, one, or just someone with political power) want it to do X instead of Y. It can be frustrating at times, especially after presenting valid arguments as to why you’ve done something a certain way, but generally it’s easier just to agree to disagree and get it done.

Being a gearhead, another good example of this to me is the evolution of a generation of an automobile model. Each time a new auto comes out or is majorly revised, the first model year or two is a pretty good representation what the engineers and designers had in mind when they started working on the car. When a particular model revision is close to it’s end-of-life is when you start seeing the chrome added, funky color combinations, and other things which are completely unnecessary which are afterthoughts in hopes of getting a few more customers. In general I’d imagine those type of requests are from a marketing department, user feedback, etc, but the engineers and designers begrudgingly have to add those things on to the car.

An example that comes to mind is the current VW Beetle. Not only has VW dead-ended themselves by using a retro design (how do you redesign a retro design?), but in the last couple of years it’s been getting some funky color choices , ugly color matched wheels, extra chrome strips, etc. It looks like for this year they did some other cosmetic modifications and got rid of the various crap they’ve been doing for the past couple of years, but you can see what I’m talking about in the previous link.

Another example would be the latest revision of the Acura TSX. It also has a “refreshed” front fascia which looks very ugly and out of place compared to the current models fascia.

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