Here’s Why It’s Important to Design Like the User is Drunk

March 30, 2015

4:00 pm

Last week, we wrote about The User is Drunk, a website offering a service wherein a UX designer will get drunk to review your site’s usability. One of our top stories from last week, we reached out to Richard Littauer, the UXD and full stack developer behind the The User is Drunk, to get some more insight behind his project.

For the mere price of $250, you can watch Littauer get drunk and review how well your site operates from a drunk user’s perspective. As previously pointed out by a commenter, the idea here is not on optimizing your site for a drunk demographic; rather, it’s about spotting the flaws in your site’s design – flaws that may not stand out to you even in your more vigilant, lucid state.

We got in touch with Littauer and (among other things) asked him why it’s important to follow this idea of designing as the user is drunk. Read his responses regarding The User is Drunk, below:

When did you come up with this?

“I came up with this a few weeks ago, bought the domain, and put it on hold while I did some other things in my life (mainly, moved to Indonesia from San Francisco). When I arrived in Bali, there was a hack day for the people in HackersParadise.org, and I figured, ‘well, I’m doing a lot of work today, but I have an hour or two to make something else.’ Over the next few days I tinkered with it, did a test review of HackerParadise.org to see if the idea worked at all, and then released it.”

What was your motivation for doing this?

“My motivation was to see if I could make a viral product, ship it, and get some extra money on the side without too much effort. I also wanted to boost my number of UX and design clients.”

How do you ensure that the things that you’re thinking about (the problem areas or issues with a site’s UX) in the moment will be shared later on with the client? Essentially: how are you securing accountability that you’ll be able to share all your input while you were in that drunk state?

“I don’t ensure that they’ll be shared later. If this were a full overview of a site, I should be charging a lot more. It isn’t. This is me getting drunk and reviewing your website – if you wanted me to be 100 percent cogent and to remember everything faithfully, you’re probably not understanding my product. I don’t think anyone can argue that my drunk feedback isn’t in some way useful – but it doesn’t have to be maximally useful, and I don’t think anyone could say it is.”

As a UX designer, why is it important to design like the user is drunk?

“It’s important for a couple of reasons, not least of which in that your users may in fact be drunk. Beyond that, a drunk user is a pretty good model for how your users may be different than you. As designers, we know our sites intimately; our users won’t, and they’ve got to be able to get what is going on fast. Errors we might miss, they might see immediately – especially involving interacting with forms[ and] buttons. Another good reason is that no one is going to give your site 100 percent of their mental attention; we’re all busy thinking about other things while surfing the web, so it’s good to make a site simple enough for someone without full mental awareness to navigate.”

What kinds of responses have you received?

“I’ve had overwhelming response. And I mean that – my price is at $250 right now because I had to raise it to the point where I wouldn’t get too many more clients, due to a backlog. Besides people signing up, I’ve also doubled my Twitter followers, had something like 200,000 unique hits on the site, and have had my inbox completely flooded with emails. I’m not complaining. The last time I went viral – besides Bushwhich.com, a choose-your-own-adventure game for Bushwick in Brooklyn that got 16k views – was because I got paid to have someone paint me blue because I wrote the Na’vi dictionary for the movie Avatar, and it’s nice to be known for something else for once.”

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Ronald Barba was the previous managing editor of Tech.Co. His primary story interests include industry trends, consumer-facing apps/products, the startup lifestyle, business ethics, diversity in tech, and what-is-this-bullsh*t things. Aside from writing about startups and entrepreneurship, Ronald is interested in 'Doctor Who', Murakami, 'The Mindy Project', and fried chicken. He is currently based in New York because he mistakenly studied philosophy in college and is now a "writer". Tweet @RonaldPBarba.

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