In technology companies, designers and engineers are among the most valued employees. After all, they create the products that your customers will ultimately purchase. But oftentimes they work in a bubble. They have mastered the skills to design but are removed from users who can provide feedback about ways to improve and upgrade the product experience.
More importantly, designers and engineers often become hands-off as soon as a product launches. Because they are not in a regular client-facing role, they may find it difficult to accurately and effectively empathize with users’ needs. So no matter how much they may know about quality design and scalable engineering, they may fail at building the perfect experience and interface for everyday users.
To design an effective UX and UI, you need to understand things from a marketing, sales and customer service point of view. OK, that may be asking a bit much — after all, there is a longstanding animosity between designers and marketers in particular. But if colleagues can set aside their differences — a topic I address in greater depth here — they create opportunities to learn something valuable from their peers.
Marketing to the Customer
The essence of engineering is problem-solving. A problem arises, and product folk engineer a solution. But when designing a new product, too often the focus is on the technical details. What new features does this product have? What cool things can it do? New features are great, but if you get too caught up in them, things can get out of hand.
The question is not, “What problems can we solve with this design?” but “What problems does the customer have, and how can we help them solve those problems?” The difference is subtle, yet distinct. Each new design feature needs to be in line with what the customer needs to do.
That is the essence of both marketing and sales — showing the customer why they need the product, what the product can do for them and why your product is a better solution for their particular needs than anyone else’s product. Similarly in customer service, brands must be able to easily demonstrate the product and its biggest advantages to potential users. While companies do not have to showcase all the bells and whistles, at the very least, they need customers to be able to understand how to use their product to accomplish more and solve common problems.
Designing for the Customer
Designers must consider the customer’s needs during each phase of the design process. It is critical they know not just what customers may use the product for, but also who the customers are as people.
When marketers produce content to promote their brand, they develop a buyer persona — a basic overview of a typical member of their target audience. It includes who the customer is and what they want, along with personal details such as their age, occupation, income, interests and household situation. Then, marketers create blog posts, case studies, presentations, and white papers that speak to each specific buyer persona, answering questions that person might have, acknowledging challenges they face and addressing their biggest pain points. Obviously, not all of the details will be true of every customer, but approaching marketing this way allows them to move beyond basic demographic information and put a face to their target audience. The best brands market to people, not statistics.
Product teams should use a similar tactic in the design phase. Create a profile for the average person who will be using your product, and design it specifically for them. Putting a face to the customer as the product is created will help you craft a product that users will love, regularly use and tell their friends about.
The main takeaway from all of this, though, is communication. Engineers don’t always agree with marketers; similarly, as this HBR article attests, marketers and sales reps are in constant conflict. And customer service teams may operate in silos as they focus almost exclusively on interacting with customers more than with their peers.
Engineers are not alone when they work in a bubble. Everyone does it. But for companies to succeed, this sort of behavior needs to stop. If designers and engineers can keep lines of communication open with marketing, sales and customer service, they may source invaluable input from their peers throughout the design process. Only then will it be easier for them to build a truly marketable product.
Furthermore, if marketers, salespeople and customer service representatives can source feedback from the design team, they will more easily be able to market and sell the products that the engineering team ships. Every employee within a firm has the same goal, which is to ensure their company succeeds — so it only makes sense to work towards that goal together.