The client is not the customer

We’ve been having conversations around the office recently regarding making the client happy. It sounds like such a good idea, but unless clients agree, at least on some level other than lip-service, with the objectives and philosophy of what we’re trying to do for them, it often fails.

The other symptom I’m seeing is that it’s becoming more important to impress the client than to create a great product. I believe we’re still creating a great product, but there is a very real danger of losing that capability.

We spend a great deal of time talking about “audience.” We say things like “end user” and “typical” and “primary demographic.” (I’d slap anyone who actually said that last one out loud).

And yet what we often actually do is to make sure the client feels good. This of course makes good business sense. Or does it?

The client is not the customer.

The customer is the person using the client’s product, web site or whatever. That’s who we should be concerned with. The energy spent (wasted?) making the client feel good about our product could be better spent educating and informing them on the value of… [buzzword alert]… “User-centered Design”

Usability professionals have been talking about this for years, and I thought people were listening. We can point out nearly every successful web site and find usability at its core: Amazon, Google, even Yahoo still has it. Why does everyone seem to know this, yet not follow their lead?

I’ve seen projects where 80% of the time was spent on over-designing every square inch of screen space and writing ultra-tweaky code. That leaves 10-20% for the rest, which includes a number of things – only one of which is the user-centered piece that we so often miss. That’s not enough.

It’s time to teach again. And for some, it’s time to listen. Between the two lies a great thing.