Tag Archives: user centered design

Quality Product Design: Don’t Give Me What I Want… Solve My Problem.


After being in the industry for years, I’ve discovered 2 important things:

A. Product Designers and UX Pros think differently than other humans.
B. Really skilled Product Designers and UX Pros see problems that need to be solved, not features that need to be added.

When a client steps forward and asks for a feature request, rather than saying, “Sure! Let me just toss that in here!” an experienced product designer says, “That is great feedback! Can you explain how you would apply that feature, and how it would improve your experience?”

Sometimes you come across companies who have a strong focus on integrating client feedback, but their products eventually implode and become so feature laden that they sink.  There are ways to integrate feature requests and take a user centered approach without destroying your product.

1. Listen to feedback clients throw your way with an interpretive ear, and don’t be afraid to dig deeper to identify underlying problems.

Listen beyond the words your clients are saying and the features they’re requesting, and get to the root of the problems they are trying to solve.

2. Sometimes feature requests are actually usability issues in disguise. 

We’ve had several situations where a client requested a new feature, and after some digging and discussion we discovered that an area of our product would solve the problem with some minor tweaking. There was just a usability stumbling block getting in their way.

3. Sometimes the product features clients request are actually new product offerings in disguise. 

“I wish the product would do this. If you’d add these features, I could use this to do Y.” All client feedback doesn’t have to be fed into a primary product, when the problems that need to be solved could be handled with a separate product with a laser focus. Bloating your flagship product with a million features will lead to client frustration. Creating a new product that solves a client problem with ease = gold.

4. Focus your energy on hearing the users’ needs not the users’ wants. 

“I want to be able to do this task more quickly” could really mean, “The feature I need to access needs to be in a more prominent position on the screen.” Or, it could mean, “The feature I need to access should be a standalone solution because it is part of my daily workflow and digging through a bloated product to find it is killing my experience.”

5. More features do not equal a better product. 

Products in their purest, simplest form, are a thing of beauty. Any designer in the world can create a product and snap a million features on top of it, and around it and under it. It takes a skilled product designer & UX pro team to pare down a product to its simplest form, until it’s a clean, elegant, easy to use solution.

So basically what I’m saying is, listen to your clients. Respond to your client needs. But don’t just give them what they ask for… solve their problems.

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User Centered Design: The Difference Between Customers and Clients

So I’ve been working at this awesome company, Schoolwires, for 6 years now.

I’ll never forget my first day on the job. My director, manager and coworkers were incredibly welcoming.

I was put on the road to observe my first onsite training during my first week.

I distinctly remember saying to my coworker as we were preparing to hit the road, “How long has this district been a customer?”

My coworker looked me dead in the eye and said, “We don’t call them customers, they are our clients.”

She said it in such a matter of a fact tone that I didn’t press for more information.

It didn’t make any sense to me, I’d come from a giant corporate monster, where we called everyone a customer. I thought that if it was a good enough term for that multi billion dollar business, why wasn’t it good enough for the little startup I now called home?

After a few weeks at Schoolwires I started to notice something. Every coworker I met seemed to love his or her job.

Then I started to notice something else, our staff members legitimately cared about each and every one of our “clients” on an individual basis. Our team would go above and beyond to make sure every single “client”, no matter the size or financial gain involved, was successful.

After about a year at Schoolwires it finally clicked for me.

When I worked at that multi billion dollar corporation, our millions of “customers” were treated like faceless inconsequential account numbers. They were just a chunk of pie on a market share graph. “Customers” are the herd of people in line at Walmart or at the grocery store or at the mall, or the faceless data in a year end report.

On the flip side, at Schoolwires each and every “client” really legitimately matters.

Using the word “clients” creates a subconscious increase in respect and professionalism throughout our entire organization. Our work environment fosters empathy, camaraderie and interpersonal relationships between our staff members and our clients. It also makes a difference in the way I approach design and usability testing. I’m not designing for the faceless masses, I’m designing and testing products that can improve the lives of the clients I know and care about.

We love our clients, and our clients love us! We’ve achieved 95% or higher client retention rates for the past 5 years in a row, which is an insanely high percentage in the tech industry.

So you want your company to start adopting a user centered product design strategy? Start by calling your users clients instead of customers.

I think you’ll be surprised by how much of a ripple effect changing a single word can make throughout your entire organization, let alone the huge impact it can have on your future designs.

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