While our clients are the ones that keep us in business, it’s their users who keep them in business. If we look after their users our clients should in turn reap the benefits.
So for the old adage of, is the customer always right? Well, that depends on who your customer is. In this sense I’m talking about the agency's client, the company who have commissioned you to solve a problem, launch a product or develop a new concept. So in that case, no they're not. It’s not uncommon to disagree with an approach a client wishes to take (and I say this with the highest regard for the client base with whom we work), as the most important factor is, does it work for the intended audience.
The client’s knowledge and expertise in their respective areas will generally detail the goals of the product and also that of the business. It is then up to us to help define and meet them objectives and in doing so deliver the best solution for the end user.
The user is everything, we’re on their side, we want them to have a great experience, use the product, love the product and come back and use it again. In return our client's product will grow and flourish and its user base will increase meaning profit and success (if that's the objective of course).
That sounds easy right? Well, ok that’s the goal but in order to get there we first need to understand what the user wants and what makes them tick, in order to satisfy them. Not everyone laughs at the same jokes, so we can’t use the same approach to please the world, therefore we apply choices and options. Just the right amount to serve a more diverse range than one without necessarily making it work for all. As generally speaking companies don’t create products that the global population will use and love in the same manner (OK Facebook has a lot of users, but let’s try to escape the mention of them today - turn away from that news feed!).
What the majority of our clients need to do is serve a specific set of people, a set of user types or groups. This helps us to narrow down their requirements, behaviours and thought processes. It helps us provide focus and guide them down a path or around an interface in a way that achieves our client's objectives. That path will have various tangents, tangents we can deal with using flows that allow various user decisions to be made while still all working and moving them towards an end point, or in some cases a series of end points.
We have processes in place that allow us to develop journeys like this effectively and also ways in which to distinguish the user in enough detail to ensure that the journey is the correct one or at least a step in the right direction.
There are times during this process of user identification and architecting journeys where we may not always see eye to eye with our client. They may prefer the journey to work another way or the interface to be structured differently. But as ‘best pals’ of the users, we’re often able to put ourselves in a better position than our clients can in terms of seeing things from the users perspective. Not only that, our user testing procedures often mean we have actual users on the ground talking to us and feeding back so we know directly what they’re getting out of the product.
But is it wrong to disagree? Not if you want a product to work. It’s possible to have heated debates over what's right or wrong, so long as it’s justified and backed up with the right research and insight that supports the target user's intended experience. After all we’re here to provide the best ROI for our clients on any given project and like all great minds (modesty out the window) we have opinions, backed up by experience, research and a passion for what we do.
We’ve been lucky enough to work with great clients who value that expertise and allow us the freedom to help make their product work. That’s not to say we run wild and ignore any input. We take every idea on board that could help improve the product and we are our clients best friends too, as in the end, it’s their objectives we serve to meet. But it starts, with the users.