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Understanding Your Customers November 26, 2015

Understanding Your Customers

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Matthew Crist

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Research, empathy, and understanding are three basic principles that make up the beginnings of a well executed design process. They also happen to be the three most talked about design principles recently.

Companies have been placing a larger emphasis on design. During this build up of design support within organizations, early processes can be described as a best guess approach that would result in a hit or miss approach in terms of succeeding in the minds of customers.

Refining the Process

This methodology can cause projects to come with increased risk. It’s an inefficient methodology as it ignores customer needs and relies on the wants and desires of business stakeholders to drive project requirements and design decisions.

In an effort to reduce the chance of failure of projects, designers started to refine their processes to include research.

The Trend Towards Empathetic Design

Empathy is a hot trend in design now. One day designers across the world woke up and decided that we should try to live in the shoes of others when designing new experiences.

This is leading to new experiences that focus on getting users to complete their tasks as quickly as possible while accounting for external factors that could be influencing their decisions and abilities to finish these objectives.

Designers have a tendency to look at the world through the lens of the most recent retina-capable device, but ultimately users are not using the latest tech, may lack the fastest broadband speeds, need accessibility support, or any other infinite possibilities that may come up when trying to use the experience that has been laid out in almost lab-like conditions.

Designers have a tendency to look at the world through the lense of the most recent retina capable device

Many designers are picking up the mantle of incorporating empathy into the design process. Many give examples of apps or experiences that are demonstratively lacking in empathy. Eric Meyer talks about this subject a lot in his Designing for Crises talk which highlights the failings of design during his experiences with his daughter’s illness.

Empathy is something that every designer can aspire to incorporate into their process, but to get there, designers need to incorporate data into their process as well.

The Important of Research

In the world of digital design, research is a fairly new concept, but in other niches industrial design, research has always been a critical part of design. When developing a physical product, the there is no room for error. Developing for digital medium has always been more lenient in what was acceptable in terms of process. It’s just some code and images, so it was seen as easier and cheaper to just get things out there and then test.

Then companies started to take digital design seriously.

Research in the digital design process is starting to demonstrate that customer needs are divergent from the business assumed needs that originally drove requirements. Many companies have thought that content marketing was the only way to increase engagement. Research and experimentation has shown that to not be the case in some industries.

Organizations that are willing to do the research legwork up front are able to reduce their costs and show a greater understanding of what their customers actually value.

As designers increase the usage of research in their process, they gain the knowledge and understanding that will allow them to think empathetically about the experiences they are designing.


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