You are not your customer

Say it with me “I am not my customer”.

Are you really thinking about what your customers need?

One of the biggest hurdles we have to overcome as designers and user advocates is convincing the client that they are not, in fact, their own customer. Even if you belong to the same demographic, you’re still too close to the situation. It’s human nature, and we encounter the same struggle within ourselves when we work on our own website!

But advocate we must, because a website designed to the client’s spec is doomed from the start. Because a website isn’t about one person’s “taste” or “opinion”—those things have very little to do with design, and are a surefire path to failure.  

A website is a tool, built by facts and figures, optimized for efficiency and efficacy

Say what? A website is a business tool; it’s an employee that works 24/7 and doesn’t require benefits or overtime pay. So naturally given its unique position as a resource you’d want it to be running at the highest possible effectiveness, right? And when you’re running your business you rely on the facts, figures, and numbers that make up your business to make decisions, right? Now we’re onto something!

Good design converts.

To clarify—

Having a website you think looks good is great.

Having a website that puts money back in your pocket is undeniably better.

This is where we come in as user advocates. But wait you say, how do you know what MY users want?

  • Experience with a broad array of businesses and their customers— we know what people respond to
  • Tools:  We have a variety of tools available to us to track users and monitor their behavior
  • Direct Research: Surveys and focus groups allow us to ask them directly!
  • Published Studies– the psychology of how people make decisions is required reading!

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’m glad you asked!  Here are my top 3 symptoms of misunderstanding the needs of the customer:

Too much content!

You have about 59 seconds to convince a user to convert—whether that’s filling out a contact form, making a purchase, or sharing something. The more content you have, the less likely it is to be focused in on what the user actually wants. And the less focused it is, the harder they’re going to have to look for it. So don’t overcompensate by cramming your homepage full of content—confused or overwhelmed users don’t make decisions, and don’t go to the next page.

Too many features, not enough benefits

Any sales person will tell you: sell benefits, not features. Your client may not even understand what the features are, but they’ll understand the effects on their business! The benefits are what actually signal value to the customer—once the benefits have won them over emotionally, they’ll use features to justify the purchase rationally.

Make my logo bigger! And more complex!

You’re not Nike. You’re not Coach. You’re not Mercedes. You’re not Rolex. Your logo is not selling your product. For most businesses the best possible logo is a tasteful typeface and minimal graphic treatment, if any. Your focus should be on conveying the benefits and value of your product. That’s what your customers want to see, they want to envision the product in their life: how it’s going to make it easier, better, and more fulfilling. So lets focus on that!

When you put the customer first, everyone wins. But mostly you.

The only thing better and more exciting that delighting your visitors with a beautiful, functional website, is when it starts converting and putting that money back in your pocket. And that’s the inevitable result when you step out of your own frame of reference and start thinking like your customers!

Published 07/11/16 by Ian Wilson