If/When Statements

Any time somebody starts a sentence with “When the user…” you should say it again in your head, but change it to “If the user…” By assuming that users are going to do what you want, you put yourself in the wrong frame of mind.


Users do not obey our every command. That’s a good thing, because if they did, I wouldn’t have a job.

Every user must be motivated to do every action you have planned for them. But that can be hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. *single tear*

Humans are funny when things become inconvenient. We download illegally because we don’t live in the “right” country to watch it online. We ignore whoever is at the door instead of putting pants on. And we avoid studying because that exam is, like, 24 hours away! 

I understand. I get you.

But we do the same thing when it comes to users. Our clients don’t want to hear that people weren’t born with their logo in mind. And we can't see users; how do you know they don’t give a shit about giving us their email address for a chance to win an iPad?

Instead of dealing with the inconvenient truth that users must be motivated, we pretend or assume they already are. Sometimes this seems so intuitive, we don’t even realize we are doing it.

Users love us! They woke up this morning and thought: “Hey, I wonder if my brand of toilet paper has a website I can browse?!”

Yeah, not so much. Assume nothing. 


Get comfortable with uncertainty:

Conversations at work tend to start with the phrase “when the user…” a lot.

That statement assumes the users will do, and ignores why they do. 

By talking like that we skip the inconvenient step and get right to the part where they love, us, instead of designing a really engaging landing page, or campaign, or some other raison d'etre.

Then we’re baffled when our bounce rates are sky high and nobody is engaged. I assume you’re baffled at least. You are checking those numbers every week… right?



We should assume the user might do things. And give them a reason.

Instead of saying “when the user…” try saying “if the user…”. I realize that it gets in the way of your glory a little, but it will help you design smarter, more insightful things by considering failure as an option.

Become comfortable with the idea that some users will not be convinced. It will make you work harder to convince them.


The alternate version of this is a discussion about what users will click, instead of discussing if users will click anything

Just because you offer them 10 amazing types of toilet paper to choose from, doesn’t mean they will choose one.

The back button is something a user can click too. Remember that, kids.