Dear designers/marketers (and innocent person reading this note),

So, you’re doing customer interviews and user research, good for you! You’ve joined the fold of responsible, empathetic, and effective product design and marketing professionals.

But you sound like a robot when you email me. Here are some questions from user testing emails & surveys I’ve received just this week:

“What’s your most important front of office tool?”
(I have no clue what a front of office tool is.)

“Which of the following was the main feature that caused you to reactivate your account?”
(None of them are features I even use in the product.)

“What are your biggest pain points right now?”
(I don’t even know how to begin answering that. Wait, actually can you help me get my kids to take longer naps? Is that what you mean?)

First, you’re asking the wrong questions. Try asking questions like a normal person instead of a marketer or researcher. Ask: “How did work go this week?” “How did you use our tool this month?” “Did you make the progress you were hoping to? Why?” You’ll get much more usable answers.

Second, please stop asking me what my biggest pain points are. No one outside of your industry knows what you mean by “pain points”.

Not only is your jargon confusing, I have to do a lot of work to answer your survey. You’re asking me to do your job for you by distilling my own life down into little marketing factoids. And I kind of resent that.

Yeah, I know that asking better questions means you’ll actually have to read every response. You’ll have to try to understand, read between the lines, and then draw conclusions. Just like in any conversation. But if I’m taking the time to do this, can’t you too?

And for the record, if you email me and ask what my biggest pain points are, I’ll just reply:

“My biggest pain point is people asking me what my pain points are.”

Yours in user empathy,
Jarrod Drysdale

Design's Iron Fist ebook

Get the free design ebook that's inspired tens of thousands of designers.

Design's Iron Fist is a collection of essays with advice for both design learners and professional designers. It's been featured as one of the best free design books by the Creative Bloq and the AIGA.

Enter your email address and I'll send it to you along with my newsletter. You'll get 1 email per week on average. More details here.

* Email required. No spam, ever. Privacy Policy.