Why customer-centric design is crucial for CX

In her book, '100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People,' Susan Weinschenk talks about why it is important for companies to know their audience to better design for them.

Companies that know more about their customers -- and people in general -- can cater to their target audience and give their customers what they want and expect.

Being familiar with how people think and make decisions is key to achieving customer-centric design of products and services. Understanding the customer -- including how they see visuals on a webpage and what text is more conducive to user comprehension -- can distinguish one business from the next if they use that customer information to achieve their goals.

User experience design aims to meet an organization's goals, but also the target audience and user goals, said Susan Weinschenk, CEO at The Team W Inc. and author of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People.

Weinschenk is the chief behavioral scientist and CEO at The Team W, which she founded in 2016. The Team W is a consulting and training organization that works in the intersection between designing user experience and behavioral design. Weinschenk has a PhD in psychology and a career in applying what designers know about people to design better products and services, especially tech products. Weinschenk is also the author of several other books, including How To Get People To Do Stuff.

Editor's note: This Q&A has been edited for conciseness and clarity.

What inspired you to write the book 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People?

Susan WeinschenkSusan Weinschenk

Susan Weinschenk: I started a blog at right about the same time I read the book and watched the movie Julie and Julia. It's based on a true story about Julia Child and this woman, Julie, who decides to start a blog back when blogging was just getting going. Julie decides to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook and blog about it. I was thinking about what made this woman Julie's blog so powerful -- it turned into a huge blog.

I decided that part of what worked so well was that she was taking people on a journey with her of cooking all the recipes. I had just started blogging and I decided I would try a journey. I came up with the idea to write 100 things that everyone should know about people. I ended up with a big following on my blog -- maybe not as popular as Julie's -- but quite good. And then when I got to the end of it, my publisher said, 'I think we should turn all of this into a book by the same name.'

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Can you explain what user experience design is?

Weinschenk: Whenever you are designing a product or a service, such as software or an app, you want to make sure that product or service fits the people it was designed for. You need to do a certain amount of research on your target audience and the context in which they're going to be using your product or service.

When you design the product or service, you want to make sure you're designing it in such a way that you are optimizing that experience for the target audience. That usually involves trying to make sure that it is pleasant, useful and valuable for the people who are using it, and that it is also meeting the goals of the organization that owns the product or service. User experience design is a process and a method that you go through to make sure that you're going to meet both of these goals.  

Why is it important to keep the customer in mind when designing a user experience?

Weinschenk: Well, if you don't design with the customer in mind they're not going to use your product or service, they're going to use it incorrectly, they're going to get frustrated using it, or they're not going to be able to complete the task they're trying to do.

You don't have to design it well from the user's point of view -- but if you don't, you are likely to lose revenue and customers.
Susan WeinschenkCEO, The Team W

And you, as an organization, will not meet the goals you were hoping to meet with that product. You don't have to design it well from the user's point of view -- but if you don't, you are likely to lose revenue and customers.

What are some key design elements that businesses should incorporate into an e-commerce site?

Weinschenk: It depends on the product you're designing and the user you are designing for. There are some basic principles, but then each principle has specific guidelines and best practices. For example, if you're designing a product that will be used on a mobile device, you want to have everything placed vertically and not horizontally because it is a pain to scroll horizontally on a mobile device. If someone is filling out a form and they check the box to type in their phone number, you want to make sure you're popping up the appropriate keyboard. Don't pop up a keyboard with letters if the user needs a keyboard in numbers.   

In the book, you mentioned that people like self-service options and having the autonomy to find information on their own. Would you say that this is an important aspect of e-commerce sites?

Weinschenk: It depends on your audience. There are some audiences that may not want self-service options. Some audiences prefer it to happen automatically, or they would like to call in and talk to a person to answer their question.

That's why it's important to understand the target audience. You might think that an e-commerce site is for everybody and that anyone can use it, so you design for everybody. But is it really for everybody? Typically, e-commerce sites have a target audience and aren't for all ages. These days a lot of people like to do things themselves, and if that is true for your target audience, you want to make sure that you are enabling them to do as much as possible.

Your book says that people are drawn to the look and feel of a website, but they put their trust into the content that's actually on the page. Does this mean that the overall look of the webpage begins to build that trust and the content solidifies it?

Weinschenk: If the page is not well designed -- if the fields don't line up, if there are a lot of different colors and if the look and feel does not convey trust -- then typically the visitor won't even look at the content. If the look and feel of the page makes them think it is trustworthy, that is step one. Then they would move to step two and actually see the content. So you have to get past that look and feel hurdle if you want people to trust the site, then you have to make sure the content is trustworthy as well.

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