You heard the saying before: you can never know a person until you walk a mile their shoes. This also applies to customers. One of the biggest mistakes a product designer can make is designing a product for themselves. When coming up with product design, emphasis should be placed on the customer. That way, the resulting design is something that is useful for them.
If there’s one thing we know for sure about consumers is that they won’t part with their hard-earned money for something they have no use for. That is why it becomes important to walk in their shows. By doing this, one is able to experience the challenges they face first hand, which puts us in a better position to come up with a solution.
But how does one go about stepping into the shoes of a customer when designing a product? It seems many people don’t know how to go about it. Ultimately, this is something that should not be overlooked.
There’s no shortage of problems in the world. And there is also no shortage of solutions available that attempt to solve these problems. Where there is a problem, there seems to be a market. However, this does not mean that the available solutions solve the problem. And if they do, it does not mean that cannot be improved upon.
With that in mind, it becomes clear that one needs to go out into the market and try the available solutions to see what they get right and what they get wrong. This means one must become the customer.
Suppose one was thinking of developing a battery for mobile phones. To walk in the customer’s shoes, one would start by looking at the batteries that are currently available in the market. This involves other people experience when using mobile phones with these batteries. One can ask themselves a few important questions:
The point of this exercise is to experience the joys and frustrations that other customers experience when using the product in question.
And most importantly, it makes sense to also ask people about what their experience with the current offerings is. This is an indirect observation. All this will provide one with enough data to know the depth of the problem we are trying to solve.
After experiencing the problem first hand and talking to people about it as well, we will undoubtedly gather actionable data. The resulting product design will be one that customers will appreciate since they will be able to tell that you understand the problem. And even after the product is released, you must become the customer again to see if the challenges being face have been met. Also, this allows you to ascertain what can be improved.
Product design is not something that should be attempted without approaching it from a customer-centric point of view. This is a viewpoint that cannot be assumed – one might get it wrong. Rather, this a viewpoint that must be experienced. So it is prudent for any designer wishing to design something useful to walk in the customer's shoes. That way, you are to come up with a product that serves the needs of your target consumers.
It will then be clear who we are designing for and what sort of nuances we can introduce, to make customers lives better.