Oh, sure, I can think of a few. Some of them I experienced directly and some of them were told to me by colleagues and users. I can think of one that I experienced personally while testing a user interface on one of the ATMs that I developed. Basically, we tested it with several users, most of all concentrating on super tech-savvy young guys and girls. Initially, our designer tested the product and she got quite critical as a lot of things didn’t work as it should have. But then I remember this one guy came in and we just had to look at how surprisingly smoothly he was going through this usability testing. You know, what’s cool about usability testing sometimes, is running a short user interview at the exit. This time the exit interview was especially interesting. We asked the guy his subjective opinion over what he had seen, done, and experienced. The guy was like: “Yeah, it was cool. A great service!”. And at the end, when I asked him to compare this machine to other items that he used in the past, it came out that it was the first time he ever used an ATM. He was always using his checkbook previously. I was like: “Isn’t it 2014 now?!” Of course, it blew everybody else’s minds away. The guy who never used an ATM machine made zero mistakes in our test. So that’s the kind of stories that you don’t expect.
Another story displays that the truth is often not what users say, but what they do. Once we had a food-related project, in which we were talking to all kinds of food experts, cooks, and so on. Within this project, a colleague of mine was interviewing a woman, who was the utmost super vegetarian. So she would not eat anything of animal origin. “Strict” was the word that would define her. My colleague accompanied her to the grocery store to immerse into her food routine. She picked a beautiful basket full of fresh greens, fruits, and vegetables. Then they went home and the woman chopped the vegetables while my colleague was taking photos of the process. And suddenly he spotted an open can full of sausages right on the cupboard. My colleague asked if she had a dog in the flat, but she responded that she basically feels like having sausage sometimes. So, this woman appeared to be a vegetarian, but sometimes, you know, would indulge in guilty pleasures.
Indeed, sometimes people don’t realize what they really do. It’s all very funny and sweet because you get to see a little bit of a glimpse of humanity. As a UX designer, you should never judge (otherwise you are making imposing design decisions on top of the user). As a designer, you may only observe and analyze, and that’s what really makes this job cool. This is not mine, but we do become “professional people-watchers”.