The problem with designing for the average user is that it assumes there is such a thing as an average user. In reality, users come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, ages, and abilities. They have different preferences, experiences, and goals. Designing for an imaginary average user can overlook the needs and perspectives of many people who do not fit within that narrow definition.

The concept of an average user originated in the early days of industrial design when designers were creating physical products such as chairs or tables. They used anthropometric data to design for the average person’s height, weight, and body proportions. However, even in that context, the idea of the average user had limitations. Human bodies are incredibly diverse, and designing for an average person cannot accommodate everyone’s needs.

Digital Design is Not a One-size-fits-all Solution

The traditional approach of designing for the average user has limitations that exclude many individuals with diverse backgrounds and needs. By embracing an inclusive design approach, designers can create digital products and services that cater to a broad range of users, providing inclusive and intuitive experiences that meet the needs of everyone.

Today, digital design is no longer limited to physical constraints. Instead, it involves creating user experiences that are intuitive, efficient, and enjoyable. However, the same issues of diversity and inclusion still apply. For instance, designing for an average user may exclude people with disabilities who require assistive technologies or designing for a specific language or culture.

Designing for the average user may also limit the potential of innovation. Innovation often comes from exploring new ideas and perspectives, which can only be achieved by designing for a diverse range of users. Creating products and services that are inclusive and accessible to a broader range of users can result in new insights and discoveries that can benefit everyone.

The solution to designing for diverse users is to adopt an inclusive design approach. As described by the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), inclusive design involves considering the needs of all potential users, including those with disabilities, different cultural backgrounds, and varying levels of literacy and digital proficiency. This approach promotes creating digital products and services that are accessible and usable by as many people as possible, regardless of their individual characteristics.

Designers should start by gathering data about their users’ backgrounds, experiences, and preferences. This can include demographic information such as age, gender, race, and socioeconomic status. It can also include information about users’ abilities, experiences, and cultural backgrounds. This data can be used to create user personas that reflect the diversity of users.

User personas can help designers understand the unique needs and perspectives of different users. They can be used to create user flows that reflect the different paths that users might take to achieve their goals. For instance, a user flow for someone who speaks English as a second language might include additional steps to help them understand the content.

Designers can also use users to test their designs. By recruiting users who reflect the diversity of their user personas, designers can get feedback on how well their designs meet the needs of different users. This feedback can be used to refine the designs and make them more inclusive.

In conclusion, designing for the average user is an outdated approach that limits the potential of digital design. Instead, designers should adopt an inclusive UX approach that considers the diverse needs and perspectives of their users. By gathering data about users’ backgrounds and experiences and creating user personas that reflect this diversity, designers can create products and services that are inclusive and accessible to everyone.