Designing for people

Designing for people, not computers

Interacting with clients in any field of work is often viewed as a negative experience.

People care very much about the way their coffee tastes, people care that their children are getting the education they deserve and people care immensely about how they themselves or their product will be perceived by others. When people care this much, is it ever a surprise when they lose their sh*t when something goes wrong?

Not really.

It is very easy to wish that our consumers would take what we give them, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t work like that. You can’t force someone to eat a pizza if they don’t want to. Even though we think it tastes great, and they should like it too.

How do we design a product, brand or website without shoving our own ideals down each other’s throats?

Listen to the problem, present a solution.

All designs are (or should be) a solution to a problem. Finding a core solution can be hard when we are constantly being distracted by a cool new feature or trending new colour palette everybody is using. The truth is, my dear fellow designers, that even if our product is uglier than a blobfish, yet works like a charm, consumers are still going to use it and even like it.

Once we have a solution, then we may start working on its features and aesthetics. People take great pleasure in using and owning beautiful things. A mobile phone has its core purpose, but now when we buy a phone we think about everything else except whether or not it is able to make a call.

That is the difference between using your phone and loving your phone.

Designing websites for humans

How does all this apply to a humble website?

A website is almost always a source of information. Visitors want to find out who we are, what our product is, how we can help them, and why they should choose us. If we’re missing this crucial information, our visitors may continue to search elsewhere for information about us or, more likely, they will move on.

Maybe our website looks great, it has an About Us page, a list of Product Features and a snazzy Contact Us page. It does everything it needs to do.

Then come the critiques. “The font is too small, I want to know more about this feature, can you add this to it?”

I think sometimes as designers we forget that our job is based on customer service. So when we receive feedback it’s kind of like a cafe: A customer returns a coffee claiming that the milk tastes funny. Although your first reaction may be to take offence and retort, “Yeah? Well, your face smells funny,” we all know that the best option is to find out whether the milk is indeed funny smelling.

Same goes for a website. Does the feedback present another smaller problem within our design/solution? Or does the critic just want to leave their thumbprint on the design? If the former, solve the new problem. If the latter, I find a thorough explanation of the initial thought process is a good way to convince them that their idea is a terrible one, without actually using the world terrible.

Unfortunately in the cafe scenario, either way, you really ought to remake that coffee, but at least you can show the customer how fresh your milk is. The cow is out the back.

It’s not as simple as “making it pretty”

Find the problem people have, then create a solution. Design a product that people will take pleasure in using. Listen carefully to feedback and decide whether or not it’s important enough to the product’s main goal to make that change.

Working for the people you’re designing for will be a negative experience if you expect it to be so, but work with them and they will certainly surprise you.

About Sher Rill - Sher Rill Ng is a Melbourne-based author and illustrator. She graduated from RMIT with a Bachelor of Design and works as a web and mobile UX/UI designer. She also took part in the Imaginism House Workshop, an intensive art training program in Montreal, Canada, working with some of the best artists in the concept art/animation industry. Though she's branched out into photography, music and games design, Sher Rill always comes back to her passion: art and illustration. Much of her work is inspired by literature and animated films. Her works have been shown in numerous exhibitions, including the Light Grey Art Lab (Minnesota) and Gallery 1988 (Los Angeles).

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