How stories ground our iterations from macro to micro

When reviewing generic design processes, we often see the same steps over and over, with different names and maybe split in slightly different ways. In practice, good design always follows at least three macro steps iterating one after the other in an infinite series: listening, thinking, and making.

Yet, that’s just the foundation: how do we truly listen? How can we keep the real customers at the center in big and small decisions? How can we balance even small details? Sometimes it’s hard to not override what we know of our users in small, simple decisions.

While designing WooCommerce for Android, we decided to make use of the phone hardware and make it easy for store owners to reach out to their customers. We created this interface:

android-phone.png

It seems intuitive right? Tweaking Material Design guidelines to accommodate two actions. It’s an excellent way to allow our customers easy  access to both phone calls and messages. It’s also simple to build, so, why not?

We then realized that while this feature was useful, we didn’t want to suggest to store owners that it’ss ok to call their customers without permission. We know very well that defaults are a powerful thing, and easy to reach actions are more likely to be used. In practice, how many of you have ever received a call after making an online purchase? How many of you would like to receive a call? Isn’t it the whole point of purchasing online?

The two positions were both grounded: one offered ease of access, while the other helps to  prevent customers being bothered after an online purchase. Which is the right choice? Should we seek a third way?

Search for and tell stories about people, not just data.

Our customer stories enlightened us.

Gina has a store that is less than a year old. A few months into her new venture, she was surprised to find other businesses purchasing from her. Each business to business purchase was very large and required she handled the orders with a phone call to the customer.

Justin’s store has been around longer. He primarily sells to individuals, and he strives for efficiency. Calling a customer during fulfillment isn’t part of his process. He’s only interested in the bare essentials required to fulfill and ship an order as quickly as possible.

Both Gina and Justin have healthy growing businesses. Their stories, combined with the data, provided us many insights that supported the design of the WooCommerce mobile apps. Yet, specifically to the small feature we were discussing, they couldn’t be more different.

Clearly, we had to go a different way, which includes adding a bit of attrition, but still making everything accessible: a single icon that opens a menu with the two options.

android-dropdown.png

Do any of us know if this is the best possible solution? In practice, the data and the stories provide guidance, but only to a point: our intuition fills the small remaining gaps, and after that it’s a matter of iterating and refining.

Intuition is grounded in interpretation through iteration.

We’ll find out after we ship. And we’ll iterate.

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