Designing for people,
Interacting with clients in any field of work, is mostly 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. So how do we design a product, brand or website without shoving our own ideals down each other’s throats.
All designs are (or should be) a solution to a problem. Listen to the problem, present a solution. Finding that core solution can be hard when we are constantly being distracted by this cool new feature, or that 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 our 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.
So how does all this apply to a humble website, you might ask. 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 else where for information about us or, more likely, they will move on to the next candidate.
Maybe we have created a solution. 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?” But I have a great website already?! Why should I change it for you? I think sometimes as designers we forget that our job is based on customer service. So when we receive feedback, I liken it to a cafe, when 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 with 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, well, 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.
So, designing for people is 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.