It’s about people, duh

Recently coming out of the startup world, I’ve had a chance to pause and reflect on the learnings from my 4 year startup stint in product design. With successes and failures throughout, the resounding lesson learned from all of it has been: It’s about people.

Obvious isn’t it? Of course is it. There are probably millions of blog posts about this, dozens of consultants within throwing distance getting paid good money to tell you this, and you’re own nagging little voice inside your head telling you – It’s about people.

Look I’m not trying to be condescending. It’s just that it’s so easy to forget about this, that sometimes it just needs to be put bluntly. So here are some of my observations from living in the product world:

*People* buy products

While you wrestle with the ideal build step, or with accomplishing something in a new JavaScript framework that regular JavaScript has been able to do all along – there are people in the world with problems they are looking to solve. Hopefully (but rarely), the products we build help to solve those problems. And what those people care very little about is the product’s framework, build process, the dev team’s thoughts on React vs Ember, or anything else for that matter – they care about one thing: “does this solve my problem?”

“Does this solve my problem?” — People with problems

As product creators it is easy to lose sight of this. Take pause and notice the world around you, and start to understand the people whose problems you are trying to solve.

You are *not* people

You are a market of one. A sample size of one. If you are the beginning, middle and end of your product validation process, remember you are not people. You aren’t a viable market.

While your gut feel, instincts and experience do matter (I don’t want to discount that), they should be focused first on determining and building what other people want. Not what you want. The tech comes later. Figure out what the people want. You might want to mess around with some new tools, other people (the people who pay) want a problem solved. These are often conflicting priorities, but they don’t have to be. If you do it right you can actually do both – build with the latest tech while you sell a product that solves problems. Just figure out the problem first.

Get out and start talking to people. Even those early-adopters using your product will reveal things you never would have realized.

People *will* talk to you

Do you know what’s great about all of this? People are everywhere and they have the answers! Look there’s one walking their dog right now! And while it is terrifying for a lot of us to talk to people, it is something that you have to overcome if you want to be successful in the world of product design.

It is not uncommon to be afraid to engage someone in conversation, which means the person on the other side likely has that same reservations. To get over it — well… you just need to try it. Go to meetups, get on the phone with customers, and genuinely look for ways to interact with people. The more you do, the more you’ll understand and appreciate the importance of doing it. Heck — you might even find you like it. I know I have.


So that’s it. It’s about people. Start talking to them.

Oh and hey — want to talk? Let me know.