Mind the True End Users

I'm an introvert.   And we introverts have superpowers.  One of my superpowers is observation.  This superpower comes in handy when trying to identify patterns.  For instance, what pattern has the best chance to create those truly great User Experiences?

In my years of churning out applications, I’ve only been really proud of the User Experience a handful of times.  In those few times, it was so energizing to see the end users not only gleefully adopt the solution, but become ardent champions and promoters—not of that spot application but of enablement, enhancement and efficiency in general.

What is the common thread with those engagements? The actual End Users were involved with development of the process and solution.  The development team could put themselves in the End Users’ shoes through first-hand accounts versus excavating through volumes of fluffy documents and flow charts.  Of course, all these projects proclaimed to put the Customer at the center of the universe.  This is noble and almost required, but in our focus on the Customer, we often forget about the End User—the person who will be using the solution daily.  This almost always leads to disappointment and frustration for the End Users, which then directly or indirectly impacts the Customer.

Consider the following example about something near and dear to my heart…Meat.

A few years ago, traditional butcher shops were closing across Germany.  They were being marginalized by big-box grocers and the increasing popularity of a vegetarian diet.  People just weren't willing to make that extra stop at a butcher shop when they could get their meat along with all their other shopping needs at the Mega-Mart. Further, young people were not interested in becoming butchers as it wasn't seen as an interesting or fruitful career.

Enter Alalbert Raps Stiftung--a German foundation dedicated to the development of the food sector.  Alalbert Raps Stiftung approached the Hans Plank Institute School of Design Thinking in Potsdam for help creating a future vision for butcher shops or Meat Purveyor 2.0 if you will.  So, the School mobilized a group of students to dive into the situation.

Through interviews and observation, the students determined that the butcher shops were located in communities with bustling lunch crowds. They formulated an antidote: quick lunch options.

To test this hypothesis, the students asked the butcher shops to prepare grab-and-go lunches in hopes of tapping into a lunch crowd.  When the students came back to see how the lunches were selling, they were deeply disappointed.  The lunches were poorly assembled, visually unappealing, missing utensils or condiments and were generally unappetizing.  In contrast, the meat cases were stocked with carefully trimmed prime cuts, artisan smoked hams hung from the rafters and the shops were meticulously clean.  This wasn't a lack of skill but rather will.  The butchers simply didn't believe in the solution and did not put their full care into the activity.

It's easy to dismiss the butchers as stodgy stubborn artifacts who deserve to go out of business if they are not willing to change.   However, let's re-frame the problem.   While more Customers could provide a lift to the butcher shops, Customers alone cannot transform the butchers or their shops.  With this perspective, it’s the butchers who must be placed at the center of the scenario rather than the Customers.

Most butchers came from many generations of butchers--a linage that greatly valued tradition and pride in craft.  Being asked to put together "fast food options" catering to a high-volume low-engagement experience flew in the face of their values.  In fact, it was almost directly opposed to the role the butchers saw of themselves as preserving tradition.

The students and butchers started brainstorming from this new perspective.  Soon, ideas were flowing fast and plentiful—a crowd-sourcing concept called "PigStarter", mentor programs for aspiring young butchers, outreach programs which connect butchers to farm-to-table chefs. (Read about some of the ideas and their outcomes over at This Is Design Thinking.)

Of course, all of this might be easier said than done.  This is why we created the User Experience engagement from Applexus.  Through a variety of cross-discipline experts, tools and Design Thinking philosophy, we help organizations create great User Experiences by focusing on the End Users.  Additionally, we are not tied to a specific product catalog or technology, allowing us to source from the best and most appropriate user-centric solutions, regardless of vendor.

Drop me a line to discuss how we might help you with your next User Experience project - scott.pletcher@applexus.com.

About The Author

Scott Pletcher's picture
Scott Pletcher
Practice Director
Scott Pletcher is Practice Director at Applexus Technologies responsible for the Amazon Web Services, Big Data and Product Development Practices. Scott is an experienced business technology professional with over 25 years in a broad spectrum of IT disciplines. Most recently, Scott has focused on Omni-Channel technologies and Innovation practices in the Retail industry.

Leave a Reply