Who are you designing for?

Despite our best attempts to be client or user-focused, often the answer is simply, “me”.

Sure, we want the client to be happy (though they don’t know much about good design), and the users to have a good time (though most are stuck in Internet Explorer X), but first and foremost, we’re designing for ourselves.

We want the design to look good in our portfolio, give us street cred with our designer friends, and look really stunning on our 24″ iMac (because all those users who are checking out the site from their Android devices don’t know what they’re missing).

“We web developers tend to be an exceptional bunch. Our work demands fast, reliable meteors to stream enormous amounts of data, and we have access to the latest, most capable devices. But while any of us work in relatively ideal conditions, we can’t just build for users like us; we can’t forget that for most of the world, the web doesn’t function like this.”
– Scott Jehl, Responsible Responsive Design

Or in Justin Jackson’s words, “We are not normal people.”

The problem with designing for “me”, is that I’m not the typical user. I can’t experience it for the first time. My perspective’s tainted.

As a parent, I can tell when a store or building was designed with parents in mind. Bathrooms, change tables, ramps, elbow room, these are all indicators that the designer had me, the user, in mind when they designed the space. And I absolutely love them for it.

As a designer it takes a ton of humility and empathy to design for users, rather than for yourself. 

On the web you might love minimalism, small typography and it might work great on your browser, but if the site doesn’t “just work” for users and make their life easier, you’ll only frustrate them. 

If you want to delight users and clients, leave your pride at the door, and listen to them. Fight to see it through their eyes. It’s not easy to see your product from the users’ perspective, but if you do, you’ll build something they love.