Humble Design

Do designers really know best?

A common trap for developers and designers is to build idealistic software and websites while disregarding feedback and input from everyone else. Because no one’s as enlightened as you, right?

We sing Steve Jobs’ mantra, “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them,” convinced that our smart customers and clients will eventually see things our way.

Listening has never been a popular sport.

I recently watched a great talk by Y Combinator partner and Wufoo founder Kevin Hales (thanks to this article). In his talk, Kevin discusses the importance of humility in building software that people love. Check out the talk below (or here):

“The reason product people and engineers and designers don’t listen to customers or support people is because they don’t see themselves as people who need to listen to other people to do their job.”
– Kevin Hales

Kevin suggests that a common problem among tech companies is that “developers are divorced from the consequences of their actions.” To bridge the divide between makers and users as they built Wufoo, everyone in the company did support, fielding customer questions and fixing bugs. 37Signals has also recently adopted this approach.

If you’re in the business of making stuff for people, the most important thing you can do is listen to those people. Sure, they might not always have the best ideas for new products, but they’ll definitely help you find points of frustration as they interact with your product. Empathy for users is what fuels great design and helps your product stand out.

Listening isn’t popular, but it might be the best way to make stuff that people actually love.

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