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I am wondering how does stereotype thinking affect the way we design for users. Will user experience designer/researcher be able to empathize with user if he/she suffers from unconscious bias.

  • What kind of "stereotype thinking" do you have in mind? – MMacD Jan 18 '17 at 13:41
  • Some stereotypes, like old folks are bad with computers, would certainly affect the way I design a website targeting older people. There's not many more I can think of though that would affect my designs. – DasBeasto Jan 18 '17 at 14:11
  • @DasBeasto when you target old people you have to adjust the product. Sure one might think it's a stereotype but most old folks will be happier with a product they can use – BlueWizard Jan 21 '17 at 13:28
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    Isn't this why we run target-user interviews and end-user testing? – Andrew Martin Feb 17 '17 at 16:20
  • Precisely Andrew Martin, as a UX practitioner, if you can't empathise with your user base, you're not practising good UX – DarrylGodden Feb 17 '17 at 17:10
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Will user experience designer/researcher be able to empathize with user if he/she suffers from unconscious bias.

It depends but really shouldn't.

For example I watch users enter orders, process sales, etc... and look for their pain points.

  • How many applications do they need to have open at one time.
  • How often to they get lost or waste time going back and forth.
  • Do they subconsciously peer in to see closer.

Let's take that last example: Does it make a difference if it's a 30 year old or a 60 year old who has to look closer at the fine print on the monitor? No. It's a use case that needs to be handled.

Then you solve the problem.

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Yes, Stereotypes are by definition Bad Assumptions

Google defines stereotype is "a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing." usertesting.com describes UX as "a design methodology rooted in a deep understanding of the user." (emphasis added)

Good information is available about creating websites for different categories of web users, such as the elderly. Failing to take such information into proper account, and instead of relying upon uninformed preconceptions, would be very poor UX indeed.

To minimize the effects of unconscious bias from a design process, either don't call out the information about expected users belonging to unprivileged group in the first place, or make sure your design team gets high-quality information to correct any preconceptions.

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I think it's impossible to fully avoid all stereotyping / unconscious bias but there are a number of strategies that have been proven to work to combat unconscious bias (this topic is certainly not limited to user research). Much of it has to do with being aware of what biases you might have and actively looking for ways to avoid them. For user research, look for user groups that have historically been overlooked: people of color, people with low income or disabilities, etc.

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