"Folklore Design"

Don't do it.

This is how we've always done it.

Sure, but is it the right way?

It worked for them.

Alright, but it might not work for you.

No matter what some might say, the plural of anecdote is not data. You should always talk to your users, and they'll give you insights into what their motivations for using your product is, which is forever valuable feedback. It's just not the whole picture. Your users don't define your vision, they have an experience with your product in their life and will talk to you from that viewpoint. That doesn't make their narrative invalid, though, it's just not the defining account of what your product's place in the world is.

I have an idea, and I don't know if it's correct, but I think the best product design is made with a methodical approach consisting of equal thirds of qualitative data, quantitative data and gut feeling.

I believe the three approaches will keep you in check, so you'll have the necessary understanding of the problem space your product exists in to have the ability to stretch beyond what you thought your product could or should do.

  • The qualitative data might give you a better insight into how a select group of your users are using your product in their life.
  • The quantitative data might tell you where pain points exists in the technical setup and design of your app, such as how your users are brought into the app, or if they're having troubles using specific parts.
  • Listening to your gut feeling is when you've looked at the other available data and take a step further back to assess if the direction you're taking currently a solution in is the right one.

Only by knowing where the issue is can you lift yourself above the problem and approach it differently. Maybe adding or removing a step from your onboarding isn't the right thing to do if you could just remove it all together. Maybe your users would rather talk to your app through their messaging platform of choice instead of navigating to the website you think they should go to.

I don't do this nearly enough, or well enough, myself, but it's something to make a priority and aspire to.

Don Norman's, "Human-Centered Design Considered Harmful" made me think of this.