What do you call the people you are building your product for? Users? Customers? People?

Does it matter?

A few weeks ago, I asked that question for the products I am working on. I believe language matters. It shapes perceptions and reactions. It creates unconscious bias that can be helpful or hurtful.

The most common term in the tech world is users. The dictionary defines a user as "a person who uses or operates something”. I build products to make things better. What is a better user? Based on the definition, it's someone who is better at using or operating something. That's shit, we can do better.

Think about who you want to improve with your product. Fill in the blank: "We are building products to make better ______." For example:

  • "Our product makes better photographers" vs "Our product makes better users"
  • "Our product makes better chefs" vs "Our product makes better customers"

Which of the above examples will align your organization on the vision and value you provide?

At Shopify, it wasn’t customers or users. It was entrepreneurs, a constant reminder of Shopify's mission: empowering entrepreneurs everywhere. Shopify is building better entrepreneurs.

At Square, Jack Dorsey declared that users will no longer be in use. Instead it’ll be buyers and sellers. Aligning with Square's mission to make commerce easy. Square is building better buyers and sellers.

Make this small change, and you’ll create a massive impact. You are building products for ______, to make better ______. Get specific and don't hide behind generic and abstract terms.