User-centred design solves organisational problems by solving user problems. Is your team really doing that?

A Kawaii picture of a broken tooth

If you’re trying to adopt user-centred design in your project, the source of future failure can often boil down to the team not having solved any real user problems. Yes everyone is talking good words about being user-first, but are you being user-centred? There are three mistakes I see being made in this area…

1. No focus on user problems at all

Despite having the intent to be better for users, many projects will go through the motions of a user-centred process without sufficient focus on defining the real user…

UX Research

Most of the time, the designs I test with users, could have benefited from a UX review at an earlier stage.

A Kawaii illustration of a microscope
A Kawaii illustration of a microscope

Somewhere in the evolution of user-centred design (what we called it before UX), the humble UX review seems to have fallen out of favour. I get the best results with my clients when I regularly review designs in addition to carrying out user research.

In this post I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of this method and why I feel the approach should be used more often.

What is an expert review?

In an expert UX review, an experienced UX practitioner, applies the understanding they have gained from past user observation, to give the designer advice about their designs. …


Short videos on single subjects

I’m constantly disappointed by the lack of practical advice being shared by most of the so-called design leaders on social media. A consistent thread I’m also hearing from people entering UX, is how much bad advice exists on the internet. It’s very hard for new entrants to tell the good from the bad.

So, as well as continuing to write my Medium posts, I’ve also started a YouTube channel of very short videos. In these videos I will discuss a single pattern, theme or recommendation, based on my own experience. …


or how user-centricity fades in growing tech companies

The most user-centric companies I’ve worked with, tend to be those where the leaders take the time to observe user research and engage with other forms of customer feedback. Yes it helps them to take more informed decisions, but it also has an influence on the attitude of the rest of the business.

Unfortunately from what I can see, they drop this behaviour as the company grows. As a result of this and other factors, user-centricity appears to wither and die as companies grow.

The fictional story which follows has a moral to it. In order to be really user-centric…


Observing behaviour is how you build the instinct to understand it.

There’s a school of thought in UX research where usability testing is a practice which should be mostly left to product teams to do for themselves, freeing UX researchers up to concentrate on ‘more important’ work.

For some researchers this is so they can more in-context observation instead, which is understandable. But others are forgoing all usability testing when it’s their only opportunity to regularly observe user behaviour.

I don’t believe this is good for them professionally.

I’m a hypocrite

I should start by admitting that I had the discussion only this week about getting another person to run usability tests in order…

I have kinda stumbled into doing a series of usability testing tips on LinkedIn. I did two and they were quite popular, so now I’m compelled to keep going. I’m going to use this post to collate them all by linking to each of the posts on LinkedIn.

About the author

I’m David Hamill. I help organisations take better decisions through lean but meaningful UX research. If you liked this post, you can read some more below.

If you would like my help to improve your product decisions, then get in touch.


Many startups are hooked on guerrilla research methods which aren’t healthy for them in the medium-long term.

Guerrilla usability tests are the staple diet of the tech startup. They grab people wherever they can and stick their product in front of those people to get feedback.

Startups should often move quickly on from this and do a bit more deliberate research with more specific types of people, rather than those who hang out in the local coffee shop. Some startups figure this out quite quickly and move on, but many plug away for years with this ill-fitting approach.

There are 3 key issues with it…


A mindset which confines innovation efforts to failed proof-of-concepts, crappy chatbots and Alexa skills nobody needs.

As we begin each new year, we are subjected to the routine predictions about what the year, and indeed decade, will bring in terms of technology. While it’s always advisable to keep an eye on developing trends, I believe that blindly developing for those trends is a distraction for many organisations which already struggle with the here and now.

A strategy cliché

As far as over-used business clichés go, few match the re-purposing of the Wayne Gretzky's quote…

“Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been”

Steve Jobs used it, and therefore so do many who aspire to…


When something in your analytics stands out as being odd, then it might be worth investigating further.

Belgian cycle racing

The retired American cycle racer Joe Parkin, wrote a book titled A Dog in a Hat, about his time racing in Belgian as a professional cyclist. The book’s title comes from a phrase used to refer to a rider who was obviously doping. The rider who would normally be struggling to keep up in races, was suddenly the strongest. This was said to be a dog with a hat on.

A dog in a hat is so odd that it catches the attention. It stands out. …


You don’t need to prove the benefit of every design decision you take. But you’re not a psychic design super-hero, so use evidence where it exists.

Psyduck has psychic powers (and only when he’s confused). You don’t.

I was recently reminded of one of the many arguments which seem to polarise design discussion online. The reminder came in the form of a Medium post titled Data-driven design is killing our instincts.

In the post, the author argues that an over-reliance on data in favour of design instinct is harming users. I understand where he is coming from on the data-driven point, but don’t accept that we should defer to instinct where evidence exists. To some extent it seems he is looking for a free reign to take decisions without question.

The need to prove every little decision…

David Hamill

Independent UX consultant | www.upux.biz

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