Wireframe Flow Chart

There are no more important three words in user experience design than Know They User. Making assumptions about your customers and what they want will lead you to build a product that nobody wants. It’s not enough to make your product or service usable. This is best summed up by Aarron Walter who founded the UX program at MailChimp when he said, “Designers shooting for usable is like a chef shooting for edible.”

Your product or service must be convenient, useful, delightful and meaningful to your customers’ lives.

Humans are the most complex component of any system. Click To TweetDiscovering what they want, need and desire is a complex task filled with dark streets and dead ends. Figuring out how to design a product that will be successful requires profound insights into both your customers and the problem you’re trying to solve. Take the extra time to define the problem, and the solution becomes apparent.

A better understanding of the problem yields solutions that are more closely aligned with accomplishing the intended outcome(s).

To illustrate this point, let me share a complex challenge I faced: a large automotive company hired my UX firm to determine what drivers wanted with augmented reality in the windshield. Most people don’t even know what augmented reality is, and they certainly don’t know why they might want it while they’re driving a car. I needed to develop a method for getting the insights necessary to understand what drivers wanted and could safely use.

There were several constraints:

  • driver distraction was a major concern;
  • the effective display area was very small;
  • target drivers ranged in age from 21 to 70 years old; and
  • any solution needed to account for current sensor technology.

We selected our participants across age ranges and comfort with technology. We first printed pictures of simulated augmented reality concepts. People were just not getting it. This is why you also test your research methods: you’ll want to iterate on them to make sure you get the data you want.

The first challenge was to help the participants understand augmented reality. Using a common, real-world example as an analogy can help define any situation. We asked our participants if they had seen the yellow first-down line used during televised football games. They said, “of course.” The connection was instant. They could now help us visualize their needs.

The second challenge was helping the participants visualize how graphics on a windshield might work. We used photographs depicting common scenarios that cause dangerous driving situations (e.g., low visibility, raining on a dark road, obstructions on the road, finding a specific address). We placed the photographs under plexiglass and gave our participants markers to draw atop the driving scene. The experience helped the participants share specific discussions about a vague concept. Their comments were rich with insights, needs and desires.

We used these interactions to sketch ideas and develop design principles. One of the most common was that drivers did not want “fancy” graphics. Highly stylized graphics felt distracting and were not useful. Drivers only wanted augmentation when it was useful or helpful; otherwise it was considered a distraction in their minds.


If you’re ever trying to find out what people want try having them visualize their ideas through drawing. It can yield insights that will help you go on to create great products that satisfy your customers’ wants, needs and desires. (BTW – look out for augmented reality on the windshield of your car in the not-too-distant future!)