Can you satisfy the cat? The users?

Describing usability and user-centered design to almost anyone who doesn’t work near the field is difficult. This includes not only the stranger trying to strike up a conversation on the plane, but also the companies powers that be in companies where user-centered designers are employed.

However, in less than 3 minutes, John Boykin, in this wonderful video “Satisfy the Cat, a.k.a. User-Centered Design,” does a great job of explaining just what effective user-centered design is by comparing user-centered design to making cat food. The best part of the video is Poobah, the cat, who illustrates the examples quite well. Even if you don’t care about user-centered design watching the cat react in the video is great.  I’d say what my favorite part is, but I don’t want to give anything anyway. I highly recommend taking 3 minutes to watch this informative and amusing video.

This one quote sums up the video and the main point quite well:

In the end, if the cat won’t eat the food, then nothing else matters. Sooner or later the owner is going to have to buy different cat food or loose the cat. The stakes are really that high.

For those who are hearing impaired or want a summary, here are a few key quotes and paraphrases:

  • “As a user centered designer I don’t work directly for the people using it [the websites]… I’m in the business of selling cat food. The cats are not my clients. They do not hire me. They do not know I exist. But the cats are the ones I ultimately have to satisfy.”
  • The 3 big mistakes a user-centered cat food maker can make:
    1. Put the owner first. I do need to satisfy the owner too, but need to do more than give the owner what they want with no regard for the cat. The cat will not eat the food, which means the owner will not be satisfied for long. (Near quote, heavy paraphrasing)
    2. Thinking the cats are like me: I’m not a cat and neither is the owner or the factory, so our needs and agenda come a distant second to the needs and desires of the cat. (Near quote, heavy paraphrasing)
    3. That the owner or designer can compel the cat to do what we want. Cat’s don’t obey. Only way is to understand cat’s own motivation and play on those. (Near quote, heavy paraphrasing)

Thanks John Boykin for the best 3 minute description of what a user-centered website designer does. Website users are a lot like cats. It is a great analogy.

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