Six empty wooden chairs propped perfectly, center stage at Adobe’s headquarters in San Francisco.
These chairs would soon be sat upon by some of the country’s most influential designers of today. Last night I virtually attended a panel discussion that was put on to bring together some of Silicon Valley's most influential designers; it was an event hosted by Invision and housed at Adobe's headquarters here in CA. On the panel, sat Facebook’s designers Geoff Teehan and Julie Zhuo, Twitter’s Mike Davidson, Pinterests’s Keith Bormuth and Instragram designer Ian Silber. The audience was no less impressive as there were those from Google, Evernote, Adobe, Mintboxx, and more.
This was a full house, buzzing with designers and technologists from all over to come together for a simple social and discuss some of the challenges that come with designing for the most powerful tools in social media today. Cocktails were flowing and free appetizers were on the rise; more importantly, some of the toughest questions were about to be answered: How do you design for millions of people without alienating certain groups? What does it take to be a great product designer? How do you communicate the value of UX to your stakeholders?
Included here, are 7 things I believe were some of the key take aways that could help anyone who’s trying to “make it big” or perhaps more appropriately make an impact in the field of design. Afterall, this is insight directly from some of the most powerful tech companies in our day. Effectively, this group of people has impacted the lives of over a billion people on our planet; some were with the companies from the beginning. I share the insight here, with you today.
Principal Designer of Mintbox Design
Is We've heard it before, and we'll hear it again. "The customer's always right," or in today's tech terms "The User is always right." ...right?
I add caution to this, as we gather user feedback (i.e. customer insight) to drive our product decisions moving forward. It makes sense to listen to "users" of your product, and iterate new features based on their requests....Right?
Not so fast. Sure, it's true: Happy users are what drive a company forward, and we should listen to what users are telling us. Users are your customers, followers, audience, employees, friends -- they are the people on the other end. They are what makes your business profitable, and they are what makes your business a business. They are the people whom you are serving. I wish to overcome some of the biggest misconceptions of designing for users experiences (UX), user research, and how to take a critical eye to what they're asking VERSUS what they really want.
Myth: The Customer is always right, User know what they want, and thus we should always act on their requests.
I challenge you to acknowledge Henry Ford's saying, "If I asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses." One inherent problem with keeping the user-consumer society as The Decision Maker to your product innovation is the fact that people think in terms of the world in which they are familiar. Henry Ford illustrated beautifully that people don't always know what they want. He built something that would get people around faster: not faster horses, but motor vehicles, rather. It's our job as the ones making the products, to know the difference between literal user feedback and too literal of user feedback. If you want to design for results, keep a keen eye out for the REAL need. Don't get so lost in the details of "the ask," that you forget about ID-ing the true pain point.
My partner, Steven Gregory, recently shared an interesting article, "France in the year 2000." Below is a picture of France according to an artist in the year 1900, predicting what he saw as a means for "the future," (which ironically, is now our distant past)
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Holly Jade is the founding Designer for MINTBOX. She graduated with her M.S. and B.S. from Purdue in Technology. Holly is an Apple award recipient, honoree to Forbes Under 30, and speaker for TEDx.