Gavin Wye

Independent User Experience consultant

Designing for people but which people

04 April 2013

Karen McGrane wrote a great post on ALA the other day entitled Explaining Water to Fish. Go read it I'll still be here when you get back. It struck a chord with me. Way back in 2009 I graduated from university with a degree in Product Design. In the three years that It took for me to get my design degree I did not once hear anyone refer to any type of centred design not user not activity and not self.

In Karen's post she summarises this in a much better way saying;

That we focus on users is unquestionable. It is so fundamental it almost doesn’t bear talking about.

When I first came across the term user centred design I was confused. Design is always for one or more people. So why the obsession with defining which type of people we are designing for?

Design is a strategic tool that helps different groups of people in different ways. It helps a business - a collection of people - by focusing on what their customers *need. Helping them to service that need for a reasonable profit. It helps those customers - another group of people - to get the products that they need at a price that is right and fair.*

So that we can use design to it's best advantage we need to define who we are designing for. Especially when it comes to designing for the web. The web is so complex and has many different facets. We need to help the people who we are designing for - our customers - focus on these people and target these people with laser like precision. Not doing this means that we can not design products and services to meet the needs of these specific groups of people. More importantly it means that we can't communicate effectively to the people we are designing for, which particular group of people we are designing for at that moment in time. This helps us to make the correct design decisions.

It's for that reason that we must define the people we are designing for. Not for us, but for the other people we are working with who do not have such an implicit understanding of the intricacies of the design process.

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