When schemas collide

Often I will go into a bakery and ask if they have any vegan pastries. Sometimes I get the response, “We don’t have anything vegan, but we do have these gluten free scones.” Why would I want something gluten free? That has nothing to do with what I’m asking for!

The root of this is differing schemas between me as the customer and the person working the bakery. My schema in this scenario is:

  1. pastries made with animal products
  2. pastries made without animal products

Here’s what I think the schema of the bakery employee is:

  1. pastries made with butter and wheat flour
  2. pastries without butter and/or wheat flour
  3. (probably a bunch of other categories – I’m not a baker)

So as a service provider or a designer, it’s important to think from the user’s schema rather than your own. Doing otherwise is a bit like Tim Meadows walking into a doctor’s office and telling some concerned parents that there’s nothing he can do for their son, but he can do the robot.