"The user is drunk" is an unusual concept in product management and UX design: it relates to the creation of websites or software so accessible that even someone drunk on alcohol could still use them easily.
But it’s more than just an idea or process that asks teams to assess a site or product while simply imagining the experience from a drunk person’s perspective. "The user is drunk" can actually involve appointing an inebriated user to test the product and report back on their experience.
"The user is drunk is one of the more innovative product-testing methods, but it can be an effective way to determine how well-designed a site, app, tool, etc. is.
"The user is drunk" concept began with Richard Littauer, a UX professional and full stack developer. In a flash of inspiration, Littauer decided to offer companies an unusual service: they could hire him to conduct in-depth reviews on their product (be it a website or an app) while under the influence of alcohol.
It was a simple arrangement — and one that Littauer pitched as a joke. He expected it to be forgotten but still created a streamlined website to promote it. To Littauer’s surprise, the site went viral, and saw him interviewed on numerous popular sites.
He was inundated with orders for his unique brand of drunken product reviews and has continued to offer the service since.
"The user is drunk" offers a number of benefits.
The first is that it encourages product designers to keep their websites and/or apps as simple as they can. That’s not always easy when a team spends months on a product and becomes so familiar with its design, they may lose sight of how first-time users will experience the finished product. For example, the layout may be much more confusing and frustrating than they realize, enough to alienate the target audience upon release.
Building a product with a drunk person in mind prompts teams to eliminate unnecessary steps in the user journey. They can focus on reducing the amount of wasteful clutter hindering the user experience, and find new ways to improve it with an emphasis on simplicity.
Another benefit of the "the user is drunk" concept is that it aids the creation of products suited to distracted users. People may visit a site or open an app while watching television, waiting for an elevator to arrive, etc. That means they’re not always going to give it their full attention.
Teams can take advantage of this idea to ensure their site is simple and pleasant to use, no matter how distracted the customer is.