language

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!

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