Design expert Don Norman says that calling people “users” or “customers” or “consumers” depersonalizes them and reinforces companies’ tendencies to focus inward rather than on what should be their mission — helping real live humans. “Years ago, in my research group at the University of California, San Diego, I remember Liam Bannon passionately arguing that the terms we used would control the way we thought, acted, behaved and, ultimately, designed. Do not make your systems idiot or fool proof, he convincingly preached, for why would you want to think of your constituency as idiots or fools?. People are rich, complex beings. They use our devices with specific goals, motives and agendas. Often they work with — or against — others. A label such as customer, consumer or user ignores this rich structure of abilities, motives and social structures.” Norman notes that it’s time to admit that designers design for people: “It is time to wipe words such as consumer, customer and user from our vocabulary. Time to speak of people. Power to the people.”

CACM Interactions 2006