Human-First: Respect Your Users

The following is a presentation that Katy Garrison and I put together for a recent ideation at our company, Ignite. This topic is something we both feel strongly about, so I wanted to share it here. (Thanks to Katy for the awesome graphics.)

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Hi! We’re Katy Garrison and Amber Aultman, experience designers at Ignite.


Ignite is the innovation lab for Adecco Group. We create web and mobile solutions to change the way you work.


Ignite was built on 4 pillars: human, digital, lean, data. We solve human problems with digital solutions. We run lean and we adjust according to the data.


Solving human problems, focusing on human-centered design and being a human brand are at the core of what we do at Ignite.


Most companies are focused on improving the bottom line. They are constantly trying to increase production and decrease costs.


But this bottom-line focus forgets the most important part of all: the users.


We feel there’s a better way to be…


When you focus on your users, you create products that are meaningful and relevant. This natural product-market fit increases the right type of production, decreases superfluous costs, and increases total revenue.


Jet Blue gets it.


So how do companies make the switch? How do they start focusing on their users?


By prioritizing, empathizing, and advocating for their users.


When you choose your users over the bottom line, the money will follow.


Making your users a priority means solving their problems, not yours. Stop thinking about what you can get from them; start thinking about what you can do for them. At every stage in your product development, you should ask: “Is this helping my users? Is this valuable to them?”


Help Remedies decided to take a completely human approach to their medicine products. Everything about the packaging is intended to help the user and put them at ease. It asks the user a real question that immediately gets at their problem. It uses an approachable, human tone that makes users feel calm, knowing the remedy is right in front of them. Most medicine companies fill their packaging front with scientific names, endorsements and comparisons to help establish credibility. They emblazon logos across the package in an effort to scream louder than the competition. But in this sea of visual cacophony, Help Remedies stands quietly, like a soothing, warm blanket. “What is it YOU need?” “No worries, I’ve got it right here.”


When you open their band-aid package, there’s a message that reads: “Hello, I’m sorry you cut yourself. It could be an isolated incident or maybe you are a very clumsy person. Don’t worry. The clumsy are much more lovable than the graceful.” This simple message delights and surprises the user, making them smile. And that smile goes a long way towards making the user feel better. Isn’t that the point of a band-aid?


Human-centered design is all about being close to your customers. When we connect empathetically to another human, our thoughts and feelings temporarily mirror their own, giving us access to their motivations, emotions, and expectations.


So, how do you cultivate empathy? By talking to your users. Observe them. Take meticulous notes. Understand their environment and relevant tasks. Then come back to the office and build out personas and role play. Do it, get all up in there.


Jet Blue completely rethought the airline experience by putting themselves in the shoes of their customers.


Become an advocate for your users, both internally and publicly. It can be easy to forget why you’re doing/building/creating something. Priorities can get lost. It’s your job to keep yourself and your company on track. When your actions are in line with your user-first priorities, you will build trust and loyalty among your users.


We go to work for our users. You should too.


Respecting your users builds lifetime customers: lifetime customers with lots of friends.


Here’s an example of one of the ways Zappos brought happiness to travelers on one of the busiest travel days of the year.


But above all you have to Listen. It starts with a conversation.


Dominos listened… and brought their company back from the brink of collapse.


So Katy and I would like to challenge each of you: Call 3 of your customers. Ask them about their experience. Ask them what worked, what didn’t, and what suggestions they have to make their next experience the best one possible.

By Amber Aultman, AIGA Communications Chair
Published February 20, 2014