I’m talking about the verbiage.

Bruce Hanington, who teaches my Research Methods for Human Centered Design course, tried to correct himself after saying “user testing.” He proffered that “product testing” is better because it alleviates the concern people have that they’re being tested.

He’s not to first to make such an argument or to object to the term user itself. I’ve seen the language talked about in articles and blogs, and heard it addressed by other professors and students.

But today, as I listened to the argument against user testing, I thought about what it actually means: testing by a user. That doesn’t seem bad to me, or to not make sense. In fact, it does make sense, and it’s likely why the term is so prevalent. Product testing, for example, could mean the designer is testing the product, or the engineer is testing the product, and not the user.

Then my mind jumped to “user.” Well, that’s someone that uses a product. Again, it makes sense. And again, it’s probably why we use the term.

It’s interesting that I hear so many people trying to correct themselves to not say something that the majority has agreed upon as understandable. I wonder if by making an effort to eliminate the “user” we’re trying to solve an actual problem or working against common sense due to over-stimulated design thinking.

If we’re worried about users feeling like they’re being tested during user testing instead of feeling like they’re the ones testing the product, then perhaps rather than try to re-design the language, we should design the experience so that the user understands and is comfortable with her role.