Users: an addendum

The Facebook research furore burst just after my post last week on the connotations of ‘people’, ‘customers’ and ‘users’. Benjamin Ellis’s thoughtfully furious post is a powerful account of the affair, including this comment on the use of ‘users’: Perhaps we need to stop using the term ‘users‘ just as psychologists stopped using the word ‘subjects‘. […]

We, the people

Let’s put this as neutrally as possible. People interact with public services. Now, here’s a simple question: what should we call those people – and why? Perhaps it’s not such a simple question after all. They – we – are many things. We are patients, customers, passengers, swimmers, clients, taxpayers, claimants  and more (as well […]

Modes of failure

A lot of care goes into designing successful interactions. The same level of care is needed in the design of unsuccessful ones. Three times in the last three days I have been wrongfooted by interaction failure, from which I draw three lessons. The three examples are very different from each other in some ways, but in each […]


More than 90% of people don’t know about CTRL- or CMD- F… — Neil Williams (@neillyneil) December 2, 2013 My first computer came with a big solid manual. In fact it came with two, one for MS-DOS, the operating system, and one for BASIC. The first – and for a long time only – […]

Familiarity and usability

Usability and familiarity are very different things. With enough familiarity, use becomes easy. But that should never be confused with usability being easy from the outset. And even to the extent that some things are more usable than others, familiarity still trumps usability, so adapting to the more usable thing will still be hard for […]

A bus company with a train set

Quick question: what’s the dominant form of public transport in London? And an irresistible second quick question: what is wrong with this picture? We will come back to the second question, but if your answer to the first was the tube, you can be forgiven. That’s the most distinctive, most high profile part of what […]