We need more underpants

I found an old post that I never ported over–it’s from 2006! Remember 2006? That was like…ages ago. But it’s still a good in my extremely humble opinion, so here you go!

“Technology” is totally uninteresting to regular people. And yet, it totally fascinates and terrifies and motivates all of us who work on things that do interest real people.I just read [ed. note: in 2006!]  Christine Perfetti’s interview with Gerry McGovern published in the UIE Newsletter. There’s a super-duper diamond of a gem in it:

Q: Do new design approaches, such as Rich Internet Applications and AJAX, change the way teams design for content?

A: I’m afraid I’m no expert on technical issues. Without technology we’d still be living in caves, but there is always a danger that technology becomes the end and not the means. I tested a series of headings and summaries with 2,000 people in 12 countries. Some summaries and headings never got a single vote. These extremely poor performing headings and summaries had one word in common: technology. I’m wary of web teams that can’t stop talking about the technology. Morning, noon and night, it is the customer you should be thinking and talking about.”
(from The Importance of a Customer-Centric Design Approach: An Interview with Gerry McGovern)

OK, how ridiculously right-on is that observation–and it’s not even an observation, it’s data driven! Why do I love this? Because:

  • these types of headings exist out there. we in the tech world think everyone is interested in what interests us. and it just isn’t true.
  • he tested these headings all over the place and the results were the same.
  • it’s one of the most simple, creative projects I’ve heard of in a long time.
  • it’s the one-sentence equivalent of a smack upside the head.

Also, it’s another way of looking at something that’s been bugging me lately: in two separate consulting projects i’ve had in the last 4 months, I’ve been in meetings where I’ve heard this:

“We need some of that AJAX stuff on our page!” [ed. note: remember, 2006!]

Oy vey. Listen up, all you companies out there. You NEVER need “more <fill in the blank with your favorite technology>.”

Think this doesn’t apply to you? Think again. Any of these sound familiar? And these are in reverse chronological order:

“We need to create a mobile app!”
(An app? or an awesome mobile site? If you don’t handle transactions, I’d argue the former.)

“We need to add community features!”
(Seriously? you’re a bank. who the hell wants to hang out at a bank?)

“We need to do something with streaming media!”
(This was a thing. If you think I’m lying, try being in your 40s for a minute and you’ll remember.)

“We need to use that ASP stuff!”
(1996 was all about ASP. I worked for an agency that specialized in it.)

These statements are the equivalent of screaming “we need more concrete in this building design!”

Technology for technology’s sake is never what customers need. Technology is the platform, not the solution. What customers need is content and tools that will help them achieve their goals. If a new technology is one way to help them do that, then great. If you have to wrack your brain to figure out why adding a schmancy new technical widget will help your customers, don’t do it. There are much better ways to spend your precious resources.Want to add something to your site just for the sake of adding it?

Ok. Add more cowbell.

P.S. check out mcgovern’s home page. how great is it that he asks “Is your website rude? Your customers hate organization-centric content.”

Sounds like he’s just as anti-underpants as I am.

One response on “We need more underpants

  1. Tabitha B.

    I love this… Could care less what "tech" ultimately gets used to build out an experience. It's more fun to work on how the content is going to excite and engage people, rather than try to show off tech-savviness and win awards. I'm still a believer that good design (the object) should be invisible… it should deliver an experience and not get in the way. Probably why I will never work at a big design firm. :-)

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