As UX professionals, we tend to consider our users as our key focus: we engage in research activities, try to understand their explicit and implicit needs, imagine how would they behave, interact, and react to our services and designs.
I could not think of any personification of the perfect UX professional, until today. It’s Elliot, do you remember the kid in E.T. who befriends the strange extraterrestrial creature?
Elliot’s attitude towards E.T. is a perfect Ux attitude of openness, lack of prejudice, genuine curiosity towards the users and their goals, absence of any agenda. Elliot engages so much with E.T. that at the end Elliot becomes E.T.’s toolto communicate and share its feeling with the world.
At the end of the movie, when a scientist tries to understand the relationship between Elliot and E.T., Michael [Elliot’s brother] explains the special connection Elliot and E.T. have established:
Michael: He [E.T.]’s smart. He communicates through Elliott.
Scientist: Elliott thinks its thoughts.
Michael: No, Elliott… Elliott feels his feelings.
This is exactly what UXers should do: feel the users feelings and avoid thinking instead or in lieu of the user.
E.T. from a UX point of view, is nothing more than a user: someone who has a goal in mind: he wants phone home. Elliot is his consultant and guide on planet Earth, helping him to interact in this dimension and to find the way to accomplish his goal.
And Elliot succeed because he genuinely cares for E.T., because he thinks out of the box, because he finds like-minded people to help, because he does not apply old or established processes.
When E.T. is captured by the scientists and MDs have to decide how to save E.T.’s life, they do not question who the patient is and they mechanically apply on E.T. all their sterile, tested, and approved protocols: procedures and practices that may work for human being, but they did not considered that E.T. is clearly not a human being.
E.T. is saved and is able to go home because Elliot joins efforts with like minded people. In a great team effort, a bunch of teenagers saves E.T. and let him to gohome.
When dealing with Users we should be more like Elliot: explore the new user, be their unbiased, sincere guide in the digital dimension, understand and put efforts and genuine curiosity in understanding who the users are, what are their goals, how do they feel, and avoid thinking instead of them — we should use our empathy to feel more like them and avoid protocols. The answer is just in being more Elliot.