The dirty work of laying foundation


Building a pretty website or developing an app quickly may seem attractive at first. It is not, however, durable in the long run. The value of a digital product lies in its usability, which is attained by focusing on the users’ interests. They are all too often considered all too late, usually as a user testing activity. Neither is engaging your users early in the design process enough—starting with them is a necessity, if you want to ensure your website is a worthy result of your work.

Your users do not usually know where the navigation bar should sit, what the breakpoints or font size should be, or which jQuery plugin should be called upon, if any. While they can tell you what makes them happy when they are browsing the Internet, they are more prone to explain what makes them mad when something is not working the way they expect. These are the insights you must gather in order to build on them. The insights you collect about user behaviour are the foundation of your building, not the wallpapers you choose when the walls are already there.

This is neither to undermine a designer’s creative eye or developer’s skillful hands. Both are capable of producing a work of genius. Very often, however, the best ideas for worst inventions are grounded in fantasy, not reality and its implications.

Before creating your next interface, application or QR code, do the dirty work first. It will pay off in the long run. Do you have an idea in your mind? Great, now think about use cases. Who do you want to use your product? In which situations? With whom? Do they have a need to use your creation, otherwise why would they want to do it?

Describe the idea thoroughly, jotting down answers to this kind of questions. Now, make a presentation. You are going to be selling your idea to potential customers. Gather people around and explain what you want to do. Draw stick figures, paint cardboards, wave flags. Let them judge your idea. Let the discussion spin off into their experiences—because that is exactly what you are after: the insights into the everyday of your users. You can then lay them as cornerstones, guiding your construction.

What kind of foundation you build your structure upon will determine whether the formation will be a success, whether the work will not have been futile, and whether your creation will stand the test of time. Crucial dirty work.

Photo Credit: mac_ivan via Compfight (cc)


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