It’s easy to forget about “the other side”.
“Your side” can be your website, it can be a new product, a new feature, or a new SaaS business.
Whatever it is, you are on one side, your users are on the other side.
While you are aware of the users, with time you lose perspective. You are constantly inside the product, inside your website, building it, working on it, fighting all the battles of what is possible, what is not, compromising.
At some point you decide that it’s good, or rather “good enough”, to show it to the world, and to launch it.
And often what your users see is a bunch of asses, despite your best intentions.
It usually happens for one of two reasons.
You are not your user
When you are working on your product for too long, you gradually lose the ability to see the other side. You get less and less empathetic. You are too deep in the details and stop seeing the forest for the trees.
When this happens, you start optimizing for what you think and feel, not for what your users think and feel.
Remember: “You do NOT know your users”
When you start making too many assumptions, using too many shortcuts, you end up with a product or webiste optimized for you, or for your assumption and imagination of a user.
Death by a thousand cuts
When building your product, you make a lot of compromises.
Something cannot be technically done in an ideal way, so you do it a little bit differently. Not ideal but you do what can be done at the moment. With time, these small compromises start to compound and as a result, you get something you would never agree to, but it happened gradually, step by step, and at each step you thought you’re making a right choice.
While each small cut is harmless, when combined, they lead to death by bleeding you out.
While it’s hard or even impossible to build your product or website with your users, try to include them in the process as often as possible.
As soon as you have a prototype or even crude wireframes – show it to a few users. Even 2 or 3 of them would give you invaluable feedback and potentially prevent you from building something that will not be used or is not necessary, or just plain useless.
Then do the same when you have your Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
You can run full user testing sessions, or even just sit with a couple of users, go through all the steps with them and see how they behave. Don’t explain too much, don’t ask too many questions, and observe.
Even one or two such sessions in your product-building process will inevitably put you on the right path. And even if, due to a few necessary compromises, you end up with a not ideal product, at least you are not showing them a bunch of asses.