“End-user” is a common term that’s used for everything from technical projects to marketing campaigns. It’s a term that just feels weird and, frankly, misused to me. Across North America, communities are being devastated by the injuries and fatalities of opioid users. The addiction of digital-users is crippling a generation. So, why do we persist in referring to our students, customers and colleagues as “users”? Here are 10 better descriptions than end-user for you to bring to your community.

Customers, members, guests, or clients

Last year I led staff training for a massive technical project. Like every other financial institution that completed such a project, we referred to our members as the “end-users” with the intention of always considering how they would use or experience the system. I believe this is a mistake because it erodes some humanity that should be felt and discussed when planning and executing projects. This may cause us to forget who the experience is really for.

Students, participants or learners

Anyone who takes part in a learning experience should never be referred to as a “user”. Sure, we all use information and knowledge to enhance our experience, but summing up people with such transactional language is pretty limiting for folks. Today, learning is more about dialogue, debate, discussion, and doing cool stuff within and beyond the classroom as opposed to simply ‘using’ information.

Colleagues, co-workers or partners

A lot of IT departments refer to their colleagues as the “end user” of their new services or systems. Again, this de-humanizes the people who may already risk anonymity because of organizational silos. By highlighting people collaboration as part of a project, you can bring a bit more humanity to the work.

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