“If we are designing for people, why not call them that: people, a person, or perhaps humans.”
— Don Norman
Do you like the word “users”? Because I don’t. It transforms people into a faceless mass of zombies, defined only by their desire to use a product.
And yet we’re talking about humans, about you and me. We all have multifaceted, talented, interesting personalities.
By thinking of people as merely users, designers and marketers restrict their interests, and in turn narrow down the scope of ideas. They only care about users as far as it applies to their product. To them, there is no person separate from the product. Working with zombies is certainly easier. So designers create standardized projects for a uniform audience and then act surprised when their conversion rates are low.
This approach is outdated and has no future in a competitive world.
If you want to create a fun and popular digital product, it’s time to consign this standard audience approach to the garbage heap.
Let’s see what a more human-focused one can do.
“I esteem myself happy to have as great an ally as you in my search for truth.”
— Galileo Galilei
Almost any person is a potential customer and source of future earnings. He or she has plenty of interests besides our product. If he doesn’t use it, it’s a good starting point to find out why. Maybe we should work on the product more, instead of saying “he’s not part of our target audience.” But more often than not, simply showcasing the product from a different angle is enough to increase the number of people who want to use it.
Detailed user portraits help you find a more human approach to people, finding emotional and associative keys to their hearts. But to give them something special, you need more than that. We often equate “user goals” with “successful use of product.” But it’s a minute, short-term, and purely utilitarian goal. If we want to get through to the user, we need to understand his or her life goals and motives. Where is he going? What are her plans?
Here’s an example. A person’s goal is to become a doctor and save lives. A user’s goal is to order medicine. Which of these allows us more space for ideas and propositions?
When we know a person’s goals and ambitions, we can show him how our product can be of use in achieving them. We can develop the product and expand its capabilities so that it motivates people to accomplish their true goals.
What you should be offering to people is ideas and motivations, not products. Make your product a part of the person’s larger goal and it will become truly valuable.
“The best proof of love is trust.”
— Joyce Brothers
You can’t care about someone who doesn’t trust you. Productive business–customer interactions are built on trust. In its turn, trust is and has always been based on quality. The quality of design, product, service, the company’s attitude toward its employees, clients, and partners.
For the user, it all begins with the website or app, with the product’s appearance. Appearance means design. Professional design accompanied by well-organized information creates trust. People then expand this positive attitude to include the product and the company. Bad design is an instant trust killer, and this negativity affects all the other services and propositions offered by the company.
People prefer to trust those websites where they are in control, where they can make their own choices and freely access all the information. Nobody likes excessive pressure, pushy advertising, multiple fill-out forms, and demands for maximum personal data. Nobody likes sneaky things like unannounced delivery charges or products that look nothing like their online pictures. Such things destroy trust.
“Friendship isn’t a big thing — it’s a million little things.”
— Mark Twain
There’s one more reason why caring about users is often neglected: a limited understanding of contacts with your audience. By contacts we mean the interactions between the audience and the product, a successful UX, and helping users to deal with the interface.
Think of the user as a new friend. You meet up for coffees every morning. But you ignore him completely the rest of the time. If you see him on the street, you keep walking by, never stopping to say hello. How long will this friendship last?
If you don’t want to lose your audience, you have to foresee all the potential points, processes, and situations where people might interact with your business and product.
This requires constantly working on all points of contact, creating and maintaining emotional and psychological bonds. It’s about being responsive and helpful in any situation, even if your help goes beyond the scope of your goals. For example, Siri cannot answer all questions but keeps trying and getting better. We should follow the same principle. Let people know their friends are there to do anything they can. To keep the friendship going, we should create more opportunities to meet up without being pushy.
“These shells are just like the people of the world… They come from many places. They come in many different colors and sizes. But they are all beautiful.”
— Margi Preus
A new apartment feels strange to us. But once we renovate it, it becomes our own. People like and appreciate the things they have invested in, whether it’s their efforts, money, time, or vision.
Personalization and customization create a strong bond with the audience, make the product more valuable to people, breed loyalty and affection. A personalized and customized interface is not just easy to use. It means that this ease of use is something the developers and designers have provided. People rarely realize it, but they will instinctively prefer this product to others and feel a deeper liking for it.
“Always deliver more than expected.”
— Larry Page
Real caring means anticipating a person’s needs and desires and giving them more than they expected. It’s always a pleasure to discover useful options and functions in an app or website. For example, here in Medium you can do a lot more than just read and write. You can set up and receive newsletters, create collections, explore statistics, share stories, and even make money.
People tend to value those resources that offer additional opportunities. It can be anything, and not necessarily something expensive: useful links, lessons, videos and music, valuable information, latest news, a gallery of relevant images. Of course, these additions should never be random or overwhelming.
Read more: 7 Magic “Mores” to Improve UX/UI
“Love does not dominate, it cultivates.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Does anyone like working for zombies? That’s unlikely. It’s much more pleasant to deal with humans. So let’s think of our users as humans, as friends who we’d like to get to know better, who we’d like to spend more time with, finding reasons to be happy, helpful, and caring. This will make our work more meaningful and humane. We will see deeper and wider, which will enable us to create beautiful, unique designs for human beings.