Know Your Customer's Motivations

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The concept of user experience (UX) is a good one, but many people try to position it as a role in an organization that helps make an app or website successful. In fact, UX is a shared goal among the entire company. If the team understands the customer's motivations, then they're able to use that knowledge to work toward its common goals. This is the way great products happen.

Understand Customer Intent

To nail down what motivates your customer, start by having clear and focused conversations. If you understand the intent of the customer, the conversation will eventually shift from why a feature is necessary to how a feature will get done. Both are equally important points, but people often get stuck in evolving a product and then spend endless time disagreeing about it. Once you understand the why behind a feature, you can always agree to disagree on the approach— the how— and move on.

Encourage Risk Taking

Next, encourage greater risk taking. Help team members brainstorm new ideas to solve common problems. Instead of copying a competitor, team members can visualize better solutions based on the understanding of what a product or website is suppose to accomplish. Understanding the motivations of the customer helps to create constraints— bookends in thinking, if you will— which is a critical part of brainstorming.

Three Key Customer Concepts

Finally, make sure to fully define the product. It helps to create solid definitions out of abstract problems, and is a key part of defining a features list. Consequently, it becomes easier to prioritize features when team members understand their value to the customer. Focusing your product around three key customer concepts helps your team innovate around features, especially when it understands how these concepts will benefit both the customer and business.

Creating great products is tricky, but getting your team rallied behind a set of customer motivations will help them stay focused without requiring heavy management. As an added bonus, a team working together toward common customer goals can't help but become more internally cohesive as a result. In the end, the customer and your company both win.

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Bryan Zmijewski

Leading the charge at ZURB since 1998

Our fearless leader has been driving progressive design at ZURB since 1998. That makes him quite the instigator around the offices, consistently challenging both the team and our customers to strive to always do better and better.
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It has 5 comments.

Jonathan (ZURB) says

Something I've noticed with our own products is that the requirement to have 3 key concepts helps immensely - it constrains the problem and helps you focus in on great experiences that aren't muddied by being all things to all people.

Jeremy (ZURB) says

Jonathan's right--constraining yourself to three (or four) concepts differentiating your product dramatically helps focus your team. It's empowering. It takes the stress of what you're doing and not doing off the table.

"...especially when it understands how these concepts will benefit both the customer and business."

That's a key line right there. Designing for people (or people-centered design) means more than just customers. Motivations of the people in different roles in the business matter just as much!

Tanya (ZURB) says

Relegating the entirety of "user experience" to a single role within a company is definitely a strategy doomed to failure. Too often we see companies approaching UI design as an afterthought, a band-aid to cover up interactions that are just fundamentally flawed.

Making a great user experience isn't something one person can do with a few lines of CSS, and it's not just cosmetic. It's something that the whole team has to be aware of from the outset. Build for people; don't just add features for the sake of adding features.

Patrick Vilain (ZURB) says

Great post Bryan.

My 2 cents about this point though: "The concept of user experience (UX) is a good one, but many people try to position it as a role in an organization that helps make an app or website successful."

The advantage to position UX as a role is that it makes it tangible for the entire cross-functional team. UX is embodied by one person, or a team. It's their responsibility to champion UX, and since it's also their function (what they are hired for) it removes potential and unproductive tensions that can arise regarding the value of the process (which is often perceived as unlinear and time-consuming in the eye of, say, the engineering sphere).

Having XD as a role minimizes the risk of making it peripheral.

Bryan (ZURB) says

Patrick- Thanks! Yes, you need a champion, but that's a design or product manager- a role that has existed for some time.

While we like the intent of UX, we don't even believe in it!

If we assume that companies need to champion the customer, then we should see customer service experience or accounting experience roles.