The Client, with Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe

Innovating UX Practice

Inspirations from software engineering

A column by Peter Hornsby
April 25, 2016

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, eyesight bleary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of UX lore—
While I nodded, merely stalling, suddenly there came a calling,
Like a baby loudly bawling, a sound I’d heard too much before.
“’Tis some client,” I muttered, “calling for some tiresome chore—
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each hopeless sketch found its place upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow I could not ignore—
For the rare and radiant design that the clients all adore—
Besought here for evermore.

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And the comments, vague, uncertain—on each minor design version,

Perplexed me—vexed me with anguish felt all too frequently before;

So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating

“’Tis some request for client meeting for some routine UX chore;

Some client asking for some UX chore;

This it is and nothing more.”

Presently I found my phone; picked it up and with a groan,

“Sir,” said, I “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;

I regret that I was sleeping, and as my phone was set to meeting,

And so faintly I heard it beeping, beeping on my study floor,

That I scarce was sure I heard you,”— their answer now I listened for;

Silence there and nothing more.

Listening for a response forthcoming, long I stood there, fingers drumming,

My mind in pointless circles running;

But the silence yet remained, and as it grew yet ever strained;

And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Explore?”

This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Explore!”—

Merely this and nothing more.

Back into my study turning, all my thoughts within me burning,

Soon again I heard a buzzing louder than before.

“Surely,” said I, “Surely that is someone at my window Skyping;

Let me see then, what they’re writing, and this mystery explore—

Let my thoughts be still a moment and this mystery explore;

’Tis but spam and nothing more!”

Open wide I flicked the app, when, with many a peeved rap,

Up there popped a stately client of the Web’s days of yore;

Not the least greeting made he; nor any pleasantry gave he;

But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my Mac’s App Store—

Perched above a GIF of Nielsen just above my Mac’s App Store—

Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then his hooded face beguiling my tattered psyche into smiling,

By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance he wore,

“Though your clothes are dark and pagan, you,” I said, “have found a haven,

Worthy, smart, and cherished client, welcome here since days of yore—

Tell me how I might assist you, with what tricky task or chore?”

Quoth the client then “Explore.”

Though I marveled from his ungainly cowl to hear this need so plainly,

Though, in truth, it little meaning—little relevancy bore;

For I cannot help but feeling that no designer was ever being

Being blessed with clients saying what they want and nothing more,

Client or colleague on the window up above my Mac’s App Store,

With the requirement ‘Explore.’

But the client sitting lonely in his window, spoke only

That one word, as if his soul in that one word did he outpour.

Nothing further then he uttered—from his cowl was yet uttered,

Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other clients have gone before—

On the morrow, he will leave me, as my fee has gone before,

With his requirement ‘Explore.’”

Startled, from my reverie, broken by his reply so aptly spoken,

I summoned my reply, as rapidly I paced the floor

“I feel,” said I, “that navigation—tested well through eye fixation—

Would aid with mental model formation and bring your content to the fore—

Till the silence stretched onward and I admit

I almost swore.

But the client still beguiling my jangled nerves into smiling,

Straight I took my Sharpie out from it’s customary drawer;

Then, upon the parchment tracing, an app with clear navigation

As I toiled for the duration and let my imagination soar

To meet the client’s need: Explore.

As I sat over detail stressing, but no sign of his impressing,

To the client whose baleful eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;

As I sat there, app designing, all the elements aligning,

Navigation to groups assigning, till each one could take no more,

But the user journey streamlining, primary persona to the fore,

Would they truly then explore?

Then I felt the mood grow tense, I feared I might have caused offence

From some requirement unknown to me before.

“Client,” I cried, “by thy decree—perhaps on something we can agree

Tell me—tell me what thou means by this ‘Explore;’

Does my design fulfill the requirement any more?”

Quoth the client then “Explore.”

And the client, never shifting, still is sitting, still is sitting,

On the GIF of Nielsen, just above my Mac’s App Store;

And his eyes have all the feeling of a demon that is dreaming,

And his baleful gaze a-gleaming throws his contempt out before;

As each concept from my Sharpie is met with contempt as before;

I shall never understand—‘Explore!’ 

Director at Edgerton Riley

Reading, Berkshire, UK

Peter HornsbyPeter has been actively involved in Web design and development since 1993, working in the defense and telecommunications industries; designing a number of interactive, Web-based systems; and advising on usability. He has also worked in education, in both industry and academia, designing and delivering both classroom-based and online training. Peter is a Director at Edgerton Riley, which provides UX consultancy and research to technology firms. Peter has a PhD in software component reuse and a Bachelors degree in human factors, both from Loughborough University, in Leicestershire, UK. He has presented at international conferences and written about reuse, eLearning, and organizational design.  Read More

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