The angst of the user experience designer

My work is used by millions.

When the thought first struck the numbers were lower, but I was stunned. I quickly surmised the only way I could retain objectivity and impartiality was to bury this thought, but it wouldn’t leave me alone. I’m hoping that I can now make sense of it by voicing it.

Of course the scale of the web excites me; I’m delighted and humbled that my work can communicate with so many people. Very few roles have such scale. Architecture, perhaps. Journalism. Politics too, although I’m hardly comfortable with that comparison.

While I admit that it’s something of an egocentric thrill, I’m no household name and nor do I wish to be. Web design is far less important than, say, teaching or healthcare. What matters more to me is that I do great work, and having a large canvas provides me with fascinating ways to achieve this.

However, while the web makes it easier for one person to reach millions, it doesn’t make the relationship easier to comprehend. My excitement is tempered by vertiginous apprehension. From these millions, there will be thousands who love my work. There will also be thousands who hate it: people who relied on the old site, who appreciated a section I removed, whose needs I’ve overlooked in the hurry to get the job done.

With such scale, these users are anonymous to me, just as I am to them. While I work hard to understand them and design to support their needs, there’s no way I can know I’ve improved things for an individual user. I hope I’ve done right by them.

The angst of the user experience designer.

Cennydd Bowles