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)
(To continue, click "read more" on the right)
In the first image, we see the French artists' solution for overcoming large fires.
Let's break this down...
1. The Current State
Fires happen and firemen manually put them out.
Tall fires happen and the firemen are too little to
effectively put out the fires.
2. The User's Ask
"We need to put out tall fires. Give the firemen wings,
so he can fly up and put out fires that are tall!"
3. What the User is Forgetting
Flying firemen might resolve tall fires but it poses a plethora
of more challenges and complications such as putting the
fire at risk and the ineffective cost it would take to research
how to get a man to fly with wings.
4. What the User Really Wants
"We need to find a solution that allows tall fires to be put
5. The Better Design Solution
In this case, Drones. It's a design that overcomes the true paint
point (tall fires) without adding too many complicated
other issues. Not to mention, putting flammable and
un-sound wings on a fireman.
What we can gather is that people have can identify pain points and problems at hand fairly easily. However, User are oftentimes are blinded by the barrier of their own world views for the best solution, and therefore may not know what they literally want until after it's been designed. The images above show that the french artist recognized the problem (i.e. tall fires) and proposes a solution (a way to get to the high points of a fire by flying men up to reach it) because of his limited world view (only knowing men to have fought fires, manually and directly.)
We need to remember that our users know what they know, and will likely speak to the familiarity of their world. It's up to us, the “producers” (designers, marketers, founders, etc.) to recognize at the core, what it is, that users need and from there, envision elegant solutions for meeting those needs -- Be cognizant of traditional barriers, self-limiting beliefs, and even your world view that could ultimately be holding you back.
How does this relate to UX and software, you might ask? Simple. We live in a world where the norm is to collect (user) feedback and make product design decisions based off their requests. They are the primary user after all, right? I don't know how many times, I've been handed a seemingly endless list of "feature requests," and asked to include them in designs. It's our responsibility as the makers to think critically and understand what these feature requests are trying to communicate. More features does not (I repeat, NOT) yield competitive advantage; Simplicity, ease, and intuition does.
It’s up to us to understand the real ask, think outside of our current world, and design for the next one.
This post was published by MintboxDesign.com
Mintbox Design is about Fresh Perspective for Design
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Holly Jade (I design UX for startups and tech.)
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.