Every User Is Not Unique

by Richard C. Stimac

Individuality Task

Individuality Task (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every user is not unique and does not have unique experiences.

I am not proposing this as a provocative statement, but as a fact. Though we are emotionally tempted to fancy ourselves different from everyone else, we are not. Possibly, our American culture predisposes us to think of ourselves as unique. Whatever the reason, UX experts must realize that it is not true, even if it sells well in front of client decision makers.

Why are we not unique? Because categories exclude it, and UX requires categories.

By definition, a category is a group that shares enough characteristics to be combined into one concept. For example, we have these creatures descended from wolves. In general, we can say that these creatures have four legs, a male and female gender, gestate and nurse their young, and so on. We have enough shared traits to create the category of “dog.”

We don’t say one dog sees a limited color spectrum while another dog has spider-like eyes. We don’t say one dog likes to eat meat while another dog picks berries from bushes. We don’t say one dog is emotionally driven to create relationships while another dog likes to live completely alone. As a category, dogs are not unique and do not experience the world in unique ways.

So too with users. The very existence of the category “user” presupposes shared characteristics and shared experiences. When we say “users,” we mean a group of human beings who are alike. If they were all unique, we couldn’t have a category. We also wouldn’t have UX.

UX relies on the non-uniqueness of users to predict responses. With this predictability, even each UX designer would experience each UX design in unique, hence unshareable, ways, which would make team interaction impossible.

Maybe we just want to believe we are unique, even though we are not.