Customer Profiles: A Design Deodorizer

Earlier this week I was talking with a close friend. His company is trying to refresh what is a very established (i.e. stodgy) consumer electronics brand. For over a decade they've been known for their high quality and on-time delivery. Now, thanks to the likes of Simon Sinek, they're seeing golden circles and want to gravitate to explaining why they do what they do, instead of how they do it.

Within that context, my friend explained how he's worried about consistency of their new design approach. "It seems like sometimes we're heading one direction, then the next day we're heading the other way," he explains. "I'm not sure how to help influence consistency."

Newsflash: Design is often messy and always subjective. Not only can design morph over a good (or bad) night's sleep, it will also look different to every stakeholder in the project. Design is awesome in all respects of the word. It's wonderfully malleable to the open-minded and instantly odious to the prejudiced. Often, all that separates the two is a split-second that can be highly influenced by relationships, politics or too much meatloaf the night before.

So how do companies move beyond the subjective teeter-totter of design decisions? One of the most effective ways I've found is through the creation of customer profiles. Building customer profiles is a multi-step process that involves fleshing out "mascots" of your target customer (or customers). The easiest place to start (for an existing business), is to begin by identifying who is currently coming to your web properties. You can see how we did this for Leef, a company specializing in external storage solutions for iPhone & iPad:

 Most businesses today have a wealth of user data at their fingertips thanks to the backend dashboards offered by Google, Facebook, Instagram, Mailchimp, ZenDesk, etc.

In the case of Leef, you can see that between Google, Mailchimp (email newsletters), Facebook, Instagram, and ZenDesk (customer service), we were able to start creating profiles of the customers that are most often interacting with Leef in those online buckets.

NOTE: Just because you have access to the customer data and can map out these profiles, it doesn't mean that you have to keep them as your target. It's a good idea, however, to research who you're attracting first and then decide what to do with those customers.

One of the greatest benefits of customer profiling is reducing the subjectivity of design approaches. Design often lives in isolation in the mind of the designer, easily misunderstood and even easier to dismiss as soon as it smells funny. Designing to customer profiles, however, can give all stakeholders a common guiding star. It doesn't completely eliminate subjectivity of the design process, but it does provide a focus and lens through which constructive design decisions can be made. 

Check out my next post to see what you can do with these profiles as you begin charting out their individual online journeys.

Apple computer image by Bilby

Dave SmurthwaiteComment