Would Mister Rogers Have Been A Killer UX Designer?

I'd like to think so. We all know that a good online user experience relies on the designer's ability to follow strong principles and if there's one thing that Fred Rogers had in spades, it was principles. And like Mister Rogers -- who was an ordained minister, puppeteer, songwriter and musician -- most good UX designers possess a range of skills. Some come from a graphic design background and some come from a software development background, which is actually a good thing since UX design spans a variety of roles. How would Mister Rogers have put those skills to work as a UX designer? Read on to find out…

Mister Rogers would put the user first.

Mister Rogers wasn't concerned with himself. He genuinely loved hearing the life stories of others, and immersed himself in what others had to say. This is one of the reasons he was so beloved by children and adults alike, and it’s a good reminder of how you want the visitors of your Web site to feel. They should feel like everything on the site is there for them. Your UX design should welcome your users, delight them, and serve their purpose, without having to make them work at it. But first you have to understand their underlying problem. So don’t forget to ask…and by all means, listen!



He believed it was the message, not the medium that matters.

In a time when everyone is talking about finding the mobile context for UX, being true to the message is more important than ever. To think that we only need to design mobile sites for people who need to access certain features while on the go is extremely shortsighted. In Karen McGrane’s book, Content Strategy for Mobile, she notes that as of June 2012, thirty-one percent of Americans who access the Internet from a mobile device say that’s the way they always or mostly go online -- they rarely or never use a desktop or laptop computer. That means roughly a third of Americans are looking to find the same robust desktop content on their mobile device -- even on their living room sofa or propped up in bed. So the delivery of your message and UX design had better be well thought out, regardless of the device it’s being viewed on.

He thought it was important to sweat the details.

Mister Rogers was a perfectionist who began playing piano at a young age, graduated magna cum laude with a degree in music composition and weighed 143 pounds every day for 30 years of his life. What’s more, he began his famous television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the same way every day for 33 years -- by walking through the front door of his television house and trading in his raincoat and suit jacket for a cardigan sweater. And while it’s not likely that many people are aware of his disciplined weight management, most all of us know and love his trademark sweater. And with that, I feel confident in saying that if Fred Rogers were designing user experiences today, he’d sweat every detail on every page.

He'd make sure that:

  • The users’ needs are addressed
  • The message (content) is king, regardless of platform
  • Plain, simple language is used to express ideas
  • There are clear user paths to the content people want
  • Words are chosen carefully—trading bloat for impact
  • The overall experience is not work, but simple and intuitive

A good user experience shouldn’t make you have to work at it. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was about learning while having fun, even while tackling tough subjects like divorce and war. And in fact, the key to Mister Rogers’ success is that he never forgot the human element. And that’s why I’m pretty darn sure Mister Rogers would have been a killer UX designer!




1 comment about "Would Mister Rogers Have Been A Killer UX Designer?".
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  1. Mark Ryan from Extractable, June 26, 2013 at 12:51 p.m.

    Great Article Dana! When the trolley takes everyone to Make Believe Land - is that similar to concept brainstorming and prototyping?

    I always liked that Mr R referred directly too his viewers as "Neighbor." He didn't try to hard to persuade his viewers to be fans, he just considered their friendship a foregone conclusion.

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