How a little bit of UX could have helped David Cameron

On the 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU. This single question - "should the UK remain a member of the EU or leave the EU?" which seemed simple enough at the time has had massive knock on affects across the globe on financial markets and currency values and Scotland saying it may well hold its own referendum on the subject.

So what has this got to do with UX I hear you ask.

David Cameron, like many CEO’s had a dream. And like many CEO’s before him, his belief in his own dream and lack of empathy for the rest of the country (or users) has cost him his job and who knows what for the people of the UK.

Basically he broke the first rule of UX - Know Your User.

If he had started the process by doing a bit of user research and later on some user testing he might not have been so quick to gamble.

"David Cameron broke the first rule of UX - Know Your User"

Having come up with his hypothesis - ‘lets hold a referendum on whether we should leave the EU or not’, he should then have tested it. And not just in the multi-cultural bubble which is London, but in other places too and with people from across the spectrum. It is much too easy to surround yourself with people who are like you and hold the same beliefs and ideals as you, but when your product has to be used by a wider group of people you need to take them into account too.

By going out across the country and interviewing the people who live on the land he governs he could have done two things:

  • got a much better understanding of what the people thought and
  • made the people feel that they were actually being listened to, a problem which made some voters use their leave vote as a way of protesting against the feeling of not being heard.

This should also have helped him to understand the beliefs across the country which might have helped him amend his message for different groups. After all the hardest thing to do is change someone’s belief of how the world is.

If he had done this and still decided a referendum was the right thing to do, and I have a feeling he might have changed his mind at this point, he should have done regular user testing across those same groups to check that his message was getting across and see if there were better ways to deliver that message.

The leave campaign did this this much better, understanding the fears of their voters and and using this to make their points.

I would suggest that any government going forward would do well to learn from David Cameron’s mistakes and make sure they really know their users before creating new policies. And I would suggest that it would not hurt to go back over old policies and check they match what they know now about their users.