There’s an adage in the interface design world: You are not your user. Sage advice, yet I see companies forget it repeatedly. Last week while participating in BDNT here in Boulder, one of the presenters, Weave, showed their incipient home page design while discussing their business model (we are in Colorado, after all).

The page showed a single search text input box in which the user could search for…well…something. Earlier, the founder also discussed how a significant percentage of Colorado’s cannabis sales were to out-of-state tourists, many without specific domain knowledge (in other words, they were new to marijuana). The result of this mismatch of UI to end user is “What do I search for?” Audience members proposed solutions such as categorizing products allowing for browsing and exploring of various product types (early Yahoo!-style). Yet no one suggested the answer that leads to the real answer.

The right answer is to simply test the design against the end user. Do it with as few as five users, but at least do it. Otherwise asserting a solution may work, or may not. But for the potential opportunity cost, why not test?

I continue to see in debates like this in design teams, sometimes between designers or between designers and developers. In either case, while proposed solutions may work, neither is the end user nor can they effectively be the end user’s proxy.

Don’t limit yourself to search or browse method of information discovery. Test a process. Test a journey. Test everything. Especially not just a small portion of the digital UI…you’ll get better results with a holistic approach.