Having been an engineer in a previous life, I’ve been a long advocate of the RTFM response when asked a silly technical problem:

RTFM = “Read the F****** Manual”

  • Where the third word can be anything starting with F depending on your mood, the inquirer, and so on. It could be “fantastic”, “friendly”, “frightful”, you get the idea …

Now of course there’s often good reasons why people don’t RTFM. Manuals tend to be anything but fantastic, indeed they are often the point of last resort, and its all too easy just to bug the local techie. Hence the F words. Some people try and make manuals easier to use, but its often the better idea to focus on making the product as easy to use as possible. In the ideal, no manual will be required. Which brings us on to User Experience …

Working more recently in the field of UX, I’ve missed having an RTFM. How should UX professionals respond to engineers or product teams when asked a silly question about visual layout, product requirements, or the usability of a feature? The answer to such questions inevitably involves some aspect of talking to your users, perhaps doing some research or looking at your metrics, talking to your customer support team, and/or “getting out of your office” [Steve Blank]. All too often we respond with some polite, constructive suggestion, UX professionals are above all diplomats in dealing with the world.

Now here’s some additional context: you’ve just been interrupted, you are probably trying to get some work done, and you might want to “wind up” the enquirer “a wee bit” too (British slang alert). I wanted an acronym to rival the catchiness, the supreme pithiness, the playful dismissiveness of RTFM. Hence I give you TTYFU.

TTYFU = “Talk to Your F****** Users”

  • The the third word can be anything starting with F depending on your mood, the inquirer, and so on. Again it could be anything from “favourite” to “fearsome” or “frackin’”. The joy of this is you can tune it to the moment.

Now TTYFU can involve a lot of time and effort, especially for a small boot-strapped startup with no time, no money, and no users. Perhaps they are also a bit shy? However it doesn’t have to be expensive and time-consuming. Here’s a talk that I recently gave at UX Eye for the Developer Guy, and Angelpad, which introduces TTYFU as an RTFM for UX and Usability, and sketches out a “guerilla research” technique for doing some TTYFUing without involving any users. Sound a bit crazy? Read on. You might recognize yourself as one of the smiley faces (direct link to preso):

Give TTYFU a go! Let me know what response you get.

Also, what does TTYFU equate to in your native language?

Acknowledgement: Thanks to @DaveMcClure (who else?) for encouraging the placement of an F in TTYFU. Ever the UX “diplomat”, I was initially considering TTYU, but in my user testing to date the F makes all the difference!