We all make assumptions all the time. In fact you likely made an assumption about this article before you clicked on it. It’s human nature for our brains to fill in blanks and make connections based on very few inputs. The problem with going from gut rather than factual knowledge is that more often than not, we’re wrong.

As product people, we also make assumptions about our customers. Everything from what they’re like and how they think, to which features they need and how they’ll use them. The insidious thing about assumptions is that we rarely realize we’re making them. While assumptions can sometimes be harmless, when it comes to building products they can have severe impacts on the experience for your customers as well as to your bottom line.

So how do we avoid this common mistake? The first step is realizing we’re making assumptions to begin with. Next up is replacing assumptions with factual information. For the design team working on WordPress.com this meant interviewing people running small businesses to better understand their day to day experiences. Our goal was to obtain a foundational understanding of the attitudes, needs, behaviors and goals of existing and potential WordPress.com audiences. From this work we uncovered many insights about small business customers, but one in particular stood out to me because I myself (yes even me!) had made some assumptions. From the research we found:

 

Small business owners are not website focused.

 

Because WordPress.com is a product designed to build websites, it was easy to make the leap that this was important to our customers. Seems simple enough right? But not so fast. For these customers building a website is just one piece to the overall puzzle of running a successful business. They weren’t interested in building a website, they wanted to make money for their business.

 

A website isn’t their first priority, but they understand its importance.

 

While these customers understand that a website is important to the performance of their business, they have a lot on their plate and can get easily overwhelmed by their own assumptions about what it takes to build and maintain a successful website. By better understanding their priorities and fears we can design a more appropriate experience that isn’t centered around spending hours perfecting a website. We can focus our efforts on doing as much of the heavy lifting as we can so small business owners can get back to what they love, running their business.

The next time you’re faced with solving a problem for a customer, ask yourself: why do I believe this to be the right solution, and is this based on fact or feeling? This one step could make all the difference.

Photo by Prince Akachi on Unsplash

Posted by Courtney Burton Doker

Nomadic product designer, collage artist, and amateur zine publisher. Inspired by the imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.