“…for me it conjures up pictures of a pale, trembling arm with a needle full of smack (YMMV, of course ;-). Of course many of the folks who sell to the “consumer” have almost exactly that metaphor in mind as their success model, but let’s not go there.
A colleague here at Nokia suggest a simple substitute for both words, after hearing me whine one-time-too-many about the usage of ‘consumer’.
He suggested “Individual”.
Does that work? A quick mental search-and-replace as a test:
- User-centred design = Individual-centred design
- Consumer electronics = Electronics for individuals
- Consumer awareness = Individual’s awareness
- User interface = Interface to an individual
Hmmm. 7/10 maybe. A bit tricky to construct replacement phrases, so can’t really see it taking off.
Of course the real difficulty with replacing ‘consumer’ and ‘user’ in commercial discourse is that they are words which make it easier for those of us designing or communicating with individuals or customers to objectify them; keep ourselves separate and aloof from them – perhaps necessary in some respects (“you are not your audience” etc.) and harmful in others.