The Design Process: Understand Your Audience
As I said, we're not jumping into software. We need to start with the people. We need to do a little bit of research. And, Einstein, we all know Einstein. And you're probably wondering what the heck does he have to do with all this? So I was reading about Einstein a few years ago, and I read this great quote. He said "If I had an hour to solve a problem, "I'd spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem "and only five minutes on the solution." And I wrote this down, I refer to this quote all the time because this is the opposite of what most of us do. You think about your workflow, or maybe if you're at work, think of your team's workflow, you normally don't spend 55 minutes, 95%, of the time on the problem. What you do is, you have an idea, you get all excited, and then you just start making it. You just go start making a spreadsheet, start doing something in PhotoShop, start making a video, start doing whatever it is, and you go from the idea to the solution. And maybe there is impact...
ing factors like your boss says I need this in six hours or something, but most of the time we do this. The problem is that by going from the idea immediately to the solution, you're missing out on key points of understanding the person, the user of the thing you're making, the context of that whole thing, and you're probably not thinking enough about the purpose or the goal of that thing you're designing. If you've worked on your resume, do you think about, well how would the person reading the resume really look at this? What information are they looking for? No, you're probably spending two hours deciding what font to use or something. So, we don't want to get into this habit of going from idea to solution, because we're skipping over these really important steps. But, I think, I work with a lot of entrepreneurs, and many times they come to me with the solution or their idea of the solution. And I always think to myself, they have done this and they feel like they have done so much, because they have a 200 page document of, maybe, screens for an app that they want to make, or something. And I realized, and I know this for myself too, when you start working on something, you feel like you are making progress because there is something on a page, there is something on a screen, and you can show someone, look what I made! But did you make the right thing? Is that going to connect with the person? Connect back to the goal? Address a problem? Does it have the right context? So, we work on things, we jump to the solution because we have this false sense of progress. But, here's the thing, when you spend those 55 minutes focusing on the problem, then creating that solution is going to be a heck of a lot easier because I'm guess, you've probably worked on something, jumped into the solution, and you think it's going to take you three hours, and it takes you three days or something. It's because you didn't go into it with enough understanding of the problem. And, a large, large part of this understanding of the problem, is really all about people. Understanding your, I call it, user, which isn't very a friendly word. But understanding the person who's going to reading this thing, who's going to be watching this thing. And so, we don't have time to go into research today, but, I wanted to give you just some questions to be thinking about as you start to work on, quote, design, your next thing, whatever that is. So whenever I start a project, either for myself, or when I start something for a client, I'm doing research. Maybe that's in an afternoon, maybe that's over the course of a month. But I'm thinking about things like who is this person? Who will be using this thing that we are going to make? Why does it matter to them? What assumptions might that person have? What is the person's goals? What objection do they have? What's their experience with this topic? If I'm making a presentation for a client or colleagues, if they've never heard about that topic before, I need to be very sensitive to that and maybe break it down a lot easier than if I'm presenting something to a colleague who's an expert in my field. Why does this topic matter to them? Why is this document important? Where will they consume this document? That's very important. Are they going to be reading the document on their own? Will it be part of something that you are there to talk them through it? That context matters, because it's going to impact their level of understanding. And even things like accessibility, is there going to be Wi-Fi there? Will you need a battery for your laptop? What about color, is someone viewing this document, especially a digital document, outside? If so, you need to choose different colors. Is it going to be in a dark room? Those things all matter. Even things like color blindness, which we'll get to in a little bit. But you need to think about that because that's a real problem, and if you choose the wrong design elements, then maybe some people are not going to be able to read it or it's going to give a different message than what you intended to give. So, failure to understand your audience, your people, your reader, your user, your watcher, your listener even, failure to understand these people will result in a lot of rework, because what will happen, is you'll realize oh, no one understands this spreadsheet, everyone is emailing me questions, I need to go back and fix this thing. Or I need to go back and fix my resume. I need to fix my website. I need to fix whatever. You don't wanna be doing this rework, and you can avoid the rework if you understand the people. So, by now, you know you're not going to design anything until you understand your audience. And IDEO, I'm not sure if you've heard of them, but they're a design firm in San Francisco and I love them, it used to be my dream to work for them, I'm not sure that'll happen, gone a different route. But I love them because they're so committed to understanding people. And there's a great little YouTube video, I think they were on 60 Minutes or something like that, this was years ago, but it kinda takes you inside the day in the life of some researchers at IDEO. And it goes through this story of how they were researching something related to healthcare, and they, literally, went to an ER, and possibly even taped a camera, before GoPros, to someone's head or something, I'm not sure. I don't know, I doubt they faked an injury, but anyway. They were in this ER simulating being there, but they did this research where, literally, they had this mock patient go through with a camera attached to them, so they could go back and really experience that, so that not just the person who was the patient, but all the other designers working on that, could go back and really feel like, okay we get it, we understand the person. So your research may not be that elaborate, but I just loving using that example. 'Cause I think it goes to the extreme of showing how much you can learn if you really try and understand the context of someone's situation. So, if you don't do research, you're probably going to do a lot of rework. So the goal here is not to continue doing this, not to be doing the 50, or sorry, the goal is to do 55 minutes of understanding the problem and five minutes working on the solution, not literally, but you get the breakdown. So we wanna get into this habit of understanding and doing that research. So, just quickly, I thought it'd be interesting to talk about how I went into doing research to understand you, watching this class. I had never really taught a class like this before, and so, whenever we first started brainstorming this, my initial questions were all trying to understand, who are these people? What are they interested in? What types of companies do they tend to work at? Are they entrepreneurs? Are they in large companies? What industries? And it was even as granular as things like, where are they watching this? Are they watching it on their phone? Are they watching it on their TV? Are they watching it on their computer? Do people tend to just listen to it almost, as though it's a podcast? I know sometimes I do that. So, all this understanding was very important because that goes into how I am actually teaching you this information, but also how it's manifesting itself on the screen. We know that a lot of people are watching on small devices, so we're not putting tons of text on all the screens. You're seeing lots of kind of headlines, large graphics, things like that, and that's by design because I know if I had tons of text, paragraphs, and you're looking at it on your phone, it's useless. It's not functional. So great design starts with understanding people. And great designers have to think about people first, and you're all going to be great designers, because now you understand why and how you can go research your people.