User Centric Design: We’re Not Building it for Ourselves


There are a lot of bad habits that creep upon me when I don’t pay attention. I start staying up late, eating crap food, and let clutter pile up around me. Professionally, I’ve noticed that we all often fall back on building for ourselves.

I don’t know anyone in the field who hasn’t studied, talked about, and often written something about the importance of thinking of the user first. But at the last moment in the decision making process, we often forget. We add huge images across the top, or stuff the front page full of broadcast information.

I came across this article by a developer reminding his community about the problem. Favorite quote:

When it comes to building products, the biggest problem technical (and creative) people have is this:

increasing the technical challenge while creating a product does not increase the chance for more sales

This surprises us. We get an idea for a thing, think about the technology we’d use to build it, and get excited.

“I could build this on the Twilio API!”

“I could learn that new CSS framework!”

“I could use this new tool I just purchased!”

The problem is that all of this is focused on us, the creator, and not on the customer, the consumer.

It’s an important perspective, and a well-written article. But I think it’s also important to remember that it takes discipline to maintain this perspective. Knowing it once will do little to change our behaviors. One approach I recommend is using personas. Here’s a recent article on how to do this. However, the only way that personas can help the process is if we refer back to them at every stage of development. Doing them once and forgetting about them doesn’t help.