Who Am I Designing For?

As a web designer, it’s easy to forget that I’m unlike over 90% of internet users out there. I’m an oddball. Strange. Unusually unusual. I look at and use the web in a way that most people don’t, won’t, and never will. Nor do they care about the details: how it was built, innovation in techniques, typography and design considerations, etc. Those are the things I care about, the things I’m impressed by. The rest of the web’s residents just want to get where they’re going.

When I build something I’m always striving to create a lasting design; something to impress…maybe just myself. The fact is, the difficulty that goes into designing and building a website neither matters to the user who will use the site nor the client directing it be built. Ideas about what works and what doesn’t will be right only when you understand the audience you’re after. I often get stuck designing for an audience I understand–web designers–and this is a problem.

We’re dirty narcissists, the lot of us! Too bad we shouldn’t be. I repent of these sins.

As a community, designers love to experiment and create ground breaking work; I don’t think I’m one of those breaking ground on that sort of scale, but from a personal perspective I’ve evolved immensely over the years. In the end, though, that evolution doesn’t necessarily matter. No one cares what technique you used, they just want to complete a task and move on. It’s better if they don’t notice that technique as it is. Why? Because the real reason a person is at any given website is to view whatever content it contains. Your work just tries to make it easier to browse.

Create experiences that aid in this process and you’ve gone a long way towards guaranteeing people won’t even notice what you’ve done–which seems tough to accept as an individual. We want and crave recognition for our efforts when we’ve tackled a particularly difficult problem, or perhaps I’m just projecting my own desires, but we’ve got understand that what we intuitively understand as novel solutions won’t necessarily be obvious for most people. Again, we’re an odd bunch, us web designers.

Moving forward, my goal is to create work that caters to something other than my perceptions on what makes for great design and to create something that is more appropriate to whatever given context I’m designing for. If you’re a designer, that’s an obvious truth–but sometimes it’s hard to remember.