Don’t forget – no one else sees the world the way you do, so no one else can tell the stories that you have to tell. —Charles de Lint
Ever since I first joined Woo, nearly 6 years ago, I always felt a sense of satisfaction working in support, knowing that I was helping enable businesses of all sizes to sell online. Most of the customers I’d speak with would either have an established business and were ready to make the move to sell online, or they’d have a business idea that they were excited to get off the ground. I particularly liked helping customers that had seemingly complex needs knowing that WooCommerce was flexible to sell practically anything anyone could imagine. Hearing about their business and site requirements intrigued me. I’ve always been interested to learn how others make their business work.
Fast forward to a year and a half ago when I first started on the WooCommerce design team helping facilitate our customer research efforts. This is when we really started to learn more about business owners needs and requirements, but perhaps even more important: the reason why they were doing what they were doing. What’s most important to them? What keeps them up at night? What motivates them to push on? It was then that I learned how to ask the right questions, and the answers continue to delight me today.
There’s one customer in particular that always stood out to me. She started a business selling coupons on eBay, and due to changes on the eBay she was no longer able to sell them on their platform, which brought her to WooCommerce. She never expected to turn her hobby of clipping coupons into a business, but here she was nearly 2 years later, not only making enough money to cover her initial goal of “beer and cigarettes” but she also found she was making enough to save for her granddaughter’s college education. This gave her great pride and really opened my eyes to all the different ways people have been able to make money using WooCommerce.
You just have to ask…
It turns out, you can go almost anywhere and find someone willing to share their story. I particularly like asking my Lyft drivers if they are originally from the city I am visiting. By asking such a simple question I learn from the most diverse backgrounds (and usually get some great local tips out of it). Everyone has a reason why they are driving, whether it’s full-time or on the side to help supplement something else. Had it not been for my 20 minute ride shares I would have never met the aspiring student from Nigeria in D.C. studying psychology while supporting his family back home, or the retired grandpa in New Orleans that just wanted some lightweight work to keep his mind active, or the eager Fijian student who had once studied abroad in the US and was saving up because he couldn’t wait to get back to Canes Chicken and shop at Walmart. Driving for Lyft each of them were able to do what they want, when they wanted, most often with lofty goals in the background for why they were doing it.
The next time you are out and about (or in your next Lyft) try asking someone about their story. Whether it’s where they came from or where they are going, there’s always a why to uncover. Stories help us build emotional connections to each other, it’s what can help us overcome our differences, to help us to think differently than we normally do, and ideally come to a shared understanding. Whether it’s in life or something we are creating. If it wasn’t for this exploration, we’d be too focused on what we know, our experience would be limited, and our life would not be as rich. As one of my favorite storytellers, the late, great Anthony Bourdain once said:
“Without experimentation, a willingness to ask questions, and try new things, we shall surely become static, repetitive, and moribund.”
No one wants that with design. So get out, seek stories, explore, and evolve your world view. You will only be better for it in the end.