Being the „Advocatus Useraboli”

Being the „Advocatus Useraboli”


Oh, that’s a bad version of “advocatus diaboli“, isn’t it? Nonetheless, I’d like to talk to you about an interesting position I’d like to take, when discussing features, project and products.

You probably know the term „Advocatus diaboli“ or „Devil’s Advocat“. In debates the devil’s advocate takes a position, he does not necessarily agree with (or simply an alternative position from the accepted norm), for the sake of debate. With that they challenge the ideas and identify weaknesses.

That is per se a very interesting principle and I found, in groups, project teams or workshops it can be a great way to engage everyone in the discussion.

You may heard of the method that teammembers play the role of a certain persona to help validate or develop feature-ideas. That’s an awesome thing, esp. in workshop with non-UXlers. It is usually a lighthearted way and helps to understand user needs much better. But being the „Advocat of the User“ is different and often more than that.

At mantro, we develop ideas often in a very lean approach. And ideally right from the beginning we get the (small) team together to openly discuss and brainstorm. Most of the time we (or a client) have a business idea first. And there may be some business needs and customer wishes. Now it gets tricky. Because if you don’t get on the right track, the project/product will miss essential features or goals. What is a great business idea if it does not fit users needs? (Is it even a great business idea?)

If you have a great team you can get two advocates into the discussion. From one side there will be the “developer’s advocat“, his goal is to challenge everything from a technical and feasibility side. And then there is the „User’s advocat“. And that’s the position I’d love to take.

It’s not as difficult as it sounds, but not easy either. As the UX consultant, I have to have a basic understanding of the user beforehand. So it is only natural, that I can start into such discussions with a set of (proto-)personas or basic user needs. So, right from the beginning, I try to challenge the business side. I play their ideas through in my had and try to figure out, if or how much it would fit a users need.

„As the user, I would want to […]. How do I do that?“ I may not have hard evidence that this is a important user need, most of the time it is more instinct. And I may choose especially tricky things, to challenge the other sides even more. But those are the questions that’ll bring ideas and concepts forward, it’s a way to bulletproof and have possible risks in mind from a very early stage on.

Because the key to a great concept is a good balance between users, business’ and technical needs. So go on, argue with the business guy and the developer! And afterwards drink a well-deserved „Call it a day“-beer, because you are a great team and can achieve greatness together!

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