Nick Bowmast takes a UX reality check

Facing up to brutal UX home truths

I’ve had to take a big swig of my own medicine. It tasted awful.

Here, I’ll share the embarrassing but enlightening story, and the 5 lessons I’ve learned.

For the past few years I’ve been moonlighting with a product business on the side of my design research work. In doing so, I’ve become an accidental entrepreneur.

The product is called Mr. Tappy, a filming tool for mobile UX research.

At first I was scratching an itch, but it’s grown to become more than that.

Mr. Tappy has been my own little ‘start-up university’, and a customer experience petri dish I’ve loved experimenting with.

I’ve learned more than I’ve earned, and the learnings have been humbling at times. Especially humbling, because I’ve been working in the field of user centred design and UX for so long.

…and I realised IT HAPPENED TO ME.

I fell into the same trap I’m hired to help others get out of, or avoid altogether.
I was drowning in the details… so close to my product I lost sight of the end-user’s perspective.

Having been through a decade of user centred design projects, this is fairly embarrassing to admit. I of anyone should have a warning bell or something…

The crux came when I had to add some information about a new feature to the website… a website overloaded with feature porn and gass-bagging.

Because: MUST IMPROVE THE PRODUCT!… Over the years I had fallen for the process of product development, become fanatically focused on supply chain, production, distribution…
…all along the way making micro details just that fraction better – according to me, and bloating the site with what I felt was important.


WRONG. I had lost sight of customer needs.. the very source of inspiration to launch this product.

Looking out – to look in.

I needed to take a large dose of my own medicine, and that came in the shape of a UX person with fresh, experienced eyes. That person was Zef Fugaz, one of NZ’s veterans of digital.

The brief was a one-pager with the instruction to be brutally honest.

Now I’ve swallowed the bitter-sweet pill and am on the right track, but hiring an outsider was a step I should have known to take… and earlier.

Five things I learned after taking the reality pills.

  1. ‘Design by assumption’ is a trap which lures you in slowly.

  2. It’s bloody hard to maintain a user centred perspective when you’re at the coal face.

  3. Even when you’re dealing with customers every day, it’s easy to become blind and deaf to their needs.

  4. Fresh, independent and outside perspective is hard to beat, but you have to be open to it.

  5. And the most telling … ‘I wish I’d done this years ago’.

Yep. that last one is the echo of every product team after they’ve run their first UX research sessions.

I’d heard this dozens of times before, but when I uttered it myself it really hit.

I think that’s what they call empathy.

For a look into my petri dish, you can read the Mr. Tappy story on the recently unbloated, now more focused website.

Reply to Nick

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *