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I'm sick of users

There have been a few interesting posts in the blogosphere discussing the word "users", notably one by Josh Bernoff. He argues against using this word, suggesting that the word "users" should be replaced with "customers", "owners", "members", etc:

Users put up with computers. People just do stuff.

I completely agree. I have long disliked the word "users", and try to avoid it. I don't think of the people using my software as "users", but rather as "customers". I write software designed to solve problems, help people achieve tasks, maintain health, monitor sites, and more. They are written by people, for people, for real-world situations.

As I say in my About page, my customers are my friends. I really believe that; it's not just a catchy phrase, but a basic philosophy. When someone writes to me with a question, a problem, or a suggestion, I read it and reply personally, trying to put myself in their shoes and figure out how best to help them. I want them to be happy, not as a user of a product, but as a customer of my company, an existing or potential friend of myself. But my thoughts on customer service is a subject for a future blog post.

Unfortunately, a long history in the computer industry inflicts itself on me when I'm not looking, so the Dejal site does use the word "user" in a few places. For example, I have "User Guides" for my software, and I may use the term in other places. I'm not sure what would be a better term for that, though... "Customer Guide" doesn't sound right. Maybe I should just call it "Simon Guide", "Time Out Guide", etc?

So developers, please consider what words best describe your relationship with your customers. Are they anonymous automatons struggling to use your software, or are they genuine people who find your products useful to help them in their daily activities?

Future and current customers: please remember that I'm a person too, not an faceless corporate entity. I invite you to tell me what you like and dislike about my work, how I can change things to help you better, or simply what you do with my products. I care, I really do! Let's be friends!

Ulf Dunkel's picture

Rename all those 'User Guides'

Hello, friend David. :-)

I have discovered this really interesting topic right now and would like to suggest a renaming of all your User Guides. Let's name them like Apple suggests, e.g.

BlogAssist Help
Caboodle Help
Narrator Help
Simon Help

The "guides" do not really guide someone through apps, but they help when you are stuck, want to read and learn more or even want to find out everything about everything in an app.

Being no native English speaker, for me the word 'user' isn't that bad as it reads in your discussion. We're all people and we all do stuff, but when we drive a car, we are drivers. When we travel, we are travellers. When we work, we are workers.

So what are we doing with computers and software? We work, we watch movies, we listen to music, we play, we read emails and news, we surf and browse, we chat, we chill, we waste time when we try to save time. We do all this with a computer and software. But should we be named computer workers, movie watchers, music listeners, computer players, readers, etc.?

We USE computer and software, so we are users, when we do this. And we're still people.

David Sinclair's picture

Re: Rename all those 'User Guides'

Yes, as I do major upgrades to my apps, I am converting to using the Apple Help books that you kindly put together for me, and calling them "help". I also change the integration on my website, e.g. the Narrator Support page instead of Simon User Guide page.

I still haven't come up with a good generic term to replace "users", so do use it sometimes, though I try to avoid it in favor of more descriptive terms.