In order to understand, empathize, and ultimately stay in touch with customers, I often feel very silly for having to remind myself of 3 simple keys. Whether I’m designing, developing, or supporting customers on a web or mobile application, as soon as I find myself confused and out of touch with my customer, I fall back on these 3 keys:
I get tunnel vision. I have a fantastic idea, or hear of one through a customer or teammate, and run with it full force. I research and design and build and write and come up with something completely useless. A huge waste of time, to say the least.
To prevent the above from happening, or if it has already happened, I take several hours away from my computer at any point during my work day to go for a walk, read a book, call up a friend to see how they are, or dance around in my kitchen cooking something. Anything works, really, just closing your screen and completely removing yourself from your project allows your brain to subconsciously give you a smack upside the head to say that you’re too tunnelled into your own work. Once this smack happens, it usually comes with a eureka moment or moment of clarity that will help you scrap your project and start again, or salvage part of it.
Wait, I’m not the norm? Well. Maybe I am, but 9 projects out of 10 I’m not my target market. I’m creating something for others, not for myself, so why would I be creating something for someone just like me? I don’t follow celebrity news, so why would I design a celebrity news app with myself in mind when I wouldn’t even use it?
I need to constantly think outside of my favourite persona (me) and realize that what I think is ‘cool’ and ‘slick’ and ‘is a fun interaction’ probably doesn’t resonate the same with others. I pull my head out of my own butt and take a look at my work from the eyes of those who will actually use my app.
Question everything. Ask why even when it probably doesn’t feel appropriate to ask why. You aren’t offending yourself or anyone, you’re simply asking yourself and others to validate their thinking and explore other possibilities.
In the header image, there are a lot of phones on that table that I have no idea how to use. I’m curious how a mobile banking app would work on whatever early version Android they run… and maybe that simplicity is what our overly complicated apps need. I don’t know, but it doesn’t hurt to be curious about it.
My 3 keys definitely revolve around common themes: Remember who your customer is, especially if it’s not you, and allow yourself the time and tools to wrap your head around understanding them. Now, do you know who your customer is, what they are asking for, and what they really need?
This article was inspired by Julie Zhuo’s answer to a question of the week: ‘How do you find ideas?’
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