Good designers use more than intuition

Posted by on Apr 2, 2014 in Design practice | No Comments


Have you ever guessed at something and been wrong?

I think we all have. But it’s not a risk I want to take with your business.

It’s my job to know who your customers are and how they behave. People make quick emotional judgments before acting, so learning what prompts them is a key to meeting their needs. I advise my clients to be honest with their customers and to deliver. Don’t tell your clients what they want to hear.

There are different ways to get information about how your customers behave. There’s a whole field called ethnography, the systematic study of people and their culture (big brands use this method at a high cost). There’s Google Analytics (web behavior only, no emotional information). What I’m advocating is a third-party interview on the phone, not an email survey or multiple-choice questions. Third party customer interviews are only appropriate for existing companies with a track record of delivering on their promise.

What do I learn from your clients?

The questions I ask vary, depending on your business and the project. I often ask

  • What has been the most important benefit/value to you when you used this service?
  • How has this benefit or value changed your life?
  • If you were in charge, what would you improve?

With answers to questions like these, I can stop guessing about your message. I learn the ways you delighted your customers, how you disappointed them or what impression they formed of your service or product.

This information allows me to realign your message, make it easy to act on, and allow your customers to feel smart and in control. Your job is to fix operations and customer service if they aren’t living up to your promise. Our ongoing partnership of design and continual quality improvement, based on a clear mission, can result in increased profits over time.

Without feedback, designers can sprint into mediocrity

  • Make incorrect assumptions about your customers’ needs
  • Rely on guesses
  • Succumb to deadline pressure and make costly mistakes
  • Limit our role to “beautifier” or “order taker”
  • Are disconnected from your business goals and strategy

Customer feedback can pay many happy returns

You’ll find that getting feedback from your customers can be profitable. Jared Spool, founding principal of User Interface Engineering, tells the story of changing one button on a web form that resulted in a $300 million increase in annual revenues for an e-commerce site. Read about Jared’s project in Luke Wroblewski’s book Web Form Design, from Rosenfeld Media.

You may not experience this kind of windfall, but working together, we can improve the things that count to gain and keep your customers’ trust.

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