Posts tagged “synthetic users”

Superficial, stereotyped user research bullshit.

Screenshot of the landing page for an online AI service that has the headline "user research. without the users."

If you’re at all online, you probably have seen the reactions to SyntheticUsers. I have enjoyed the snark and outrage about this ridiculous ‘service’ but we really benefit from Niloufar Salehi actually trying it and reporting back so the outrage can be founded in the facts. Ironically, this is something that SyntheticUsers doesn’t actually do

This short post, I tried out SyntheticUsers, so you don’t have to is summed up by the sub-head

Using AI as a replacement for interviewing actual users is a brilliant idea if you want to look like you made an effort, but are really looking to fill the page with superficial, stereotyped bullshit.

Further in, we see that this experiment compared the output of SynthesicUsers with the conclusions from some actual research. In the research itself

Our own in-depth interviews over months with real parents found that the dashboard was a misguided solution and that what was really meeting our participants’ information needs was through trusting relationships that met them where they were and went beyond information about schools.

but SyntheticUsers reports that

Participants said that the dashboard would be “very effective,” “very useful,” and “very helpful” in solving their problems (6/6) and rated it on average 3.4/5.

Again, there’s no surprises here, but there is delight in seeing an actual example. Send this to your bosses, clients, and colleagues who decide to suggest these sorts of tools instead of actually, you know, doing the work.


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