Who Are You Building That For?

We build products for ourselves or for customers, and the difference isn’t always clear.

When I started out as a designer we knew (in theory) that we were making websites for clients, so they could make money from customers. But, from the vantage point of experience, it’s easy to see that we were really making stuff for ourselves: for kudos, money, reputation and further opportunity. Form always trumped function. Before design was usability-driven, it was ego-driven. It seems absurd that we ever thought otherwise, but Jakob Nielsen, and his Bauhaus-like functional idealism, was right all along. We’re sorry, Dr. Nielsen.

Perhaps it mattered less in that age. In the mad rush to dominate the internet, websites back then had shorter lifespans. Big brands were content to spend vast sums to be seen as innovators, and if we didn’t get it right we’d do another one next year anyway. And even if we’d asked the right questions, would there’ve been enough data to provide useful answers?

Perhaps not, but these days there certainly is, and we should be smarter. Secondary motivators – awards, reputation, money, social likes – will always exist, but usually as goals at the end of the wrong path.

To uncover the primary motivator, ask the primary question: who are we building this for?

Categories: UX