Hello SOTGC community,
Are you creating, designing, or developing something? Aren’t we all, really?
No matter your industry or profession, we all create and design new things.
Some of us actually build products, some of us design services for customers or users, some of us develop new processes within existing businesses and frameworks, some of us are making our way through uncharted entrepreneurial territory and everything we do is a new creation or development.
Design firm IDEO uses what they call design thinking, or human-centered design, in the development of all of their projects – whether it is a new product, service, or experience.
Their projects include developing the Apple mouse, kids toothbrushes, patient experiences for a children’s hospital, digital platforms to teach millennials about money, and so much more.
Their focus? People. People are always the center of their design process.
Watching kids try to brush their teeth gave the IDEO design team the insight that regular adult toothbrushes, only shorter, were too difficult for kids to handle without fully developed hand-eye coordination. They looked to other items kids used with their hands, namely fat crayons, to design thicker, more shapely toothbrushes for children that significantly increased their usage – and kids dental health – and their client’s profits.
IDEO interviews users, observes people in the specific environment they are focused on, and walk in the shoes of the people they are designing for. And I am not talking about their clients. The company that hired IDEO to design a new kids toothbrush was not who IDEO was designing for. They were designing for kids. So they took the time to truly understand what kids were going through when they brushed their teeth. In the end, they gave their client exactly what they asked for – a hit product and increased sales.
Are you focused on users when you are creating? Or are you creating what you think people want? Or what your boss or customer has asked you to create?
How can you get out of the way and put people first when you are designing, developing, and creating?
- Talk to them – It seems simple and obvious but you would be surprised how many times products and services have been created for users that were never consulted. We all have assumptions and ideas about what our customers want from us – whether it is a new service or product that we think will change their lives – but until you take those assumptions directly to the customers, you cannot know if they are true. Only through real, authentic conversations can we fully understand our customers and their biggest needs and deepest desires. If you do not tap into those things, your amazing new product or service will not sell, no matter how great you think it is.
- Observe them – Get out of your office and into the lives of your customers. Are you a financial planner? Watch your customers pay their bills and navigate financial websites. Are you a web or app developer? Watch people use similar sites or apps to what you are creating on their devices. Are you a hospital administrator trying to make your ER more efficient? Sit in the ER all day and see what staff and patients do. Watch your customers interact with every aspect of the product or process you are working on, in any way that you can. The insights that come from seeing people work around features you thought were important or not even notice some features will shift your perspective on what you are creating.
- Get your product or service in front of them – Many people are afraid to show end users what they are creating until it is “perfect” because they do not want to turn off potential users with an unfished or bug-filled product or service. This is incredibly shortsighted, as a “perfect” product that customers do not want does you absolutely no good. You have to get your product or service in the hands of users as soon as possible to get their feedback. They will tell you from the very beginning which features they like or do not like, what they expect to happen next, and likely even what they would pay for your creation. If you do not have a physical product to put in people’s hands sketch or storyboard your process, walk customers step by step through your service, or whatever it takes to get good feedback.
Putting people first in the design and creation process can be difficult because we often think we know what is best and what people want from us. Even the professionals who are entrenched in their industry can get things wrong. Seeing large trends from the outside does not provide insight into the everyday lives of users and consumers.
Having an attitude of openness, empathy, and humbleness in regards to your customers can change the level of interaction and your ability to connect to their true needs and desires. See what they see and feel what they feel. Be willing to accept new ideas and let go of solutions you proposed in favor of solutions customers see – with one caveat. As Henry Ford famously said, “If I asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” If you are in a truly disruptive, game-changing industry, customers may not know what they really want. But you still have to fully understand where they are coming from now to help direct them towards the big vision you see for the future.
Let us know how you are putting people first. Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page about your creative and design projects where users are front and center.