What problem are you trying to solve?

22nd October 2012
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In web design, development and usability the biggest problem is not spending enough time finding out what the problem is.

Albert Einstein once said: “If I had an hour to save the world I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute finding solutions”. And I find in most organizations people are running around spending sixty minutes finding solutions to problems that don’t matter.”
~ Stephen Shapiro

The questions, “what do our users want and what should we do about it,” and, “how do we make money with this website” are one in the same. If you build it and they relate to it, they will come back. Then it becomes profitable!

Websites that do this well don’t tell more than one story:

  • DropBox – I want to share files between computers
  • Google – I want to find something
  • YouTube – I want to watch a video

Simple problems, simple answers. Big money.

How to start a perpetual motion machine

But how to start a similar perpetual motion machine? Just find a real problem, spend 59 minutes reviewing and testing it and asking real people if it really bothers them or not, and then spend that 1 precious minute creating a solution that tells a great story.

I think people get caught up so much in being first that they forget what’s really needed is to tell the best story. My kids would let me read stories to them all day long, and as adults we still crave this.

People also think they know so much about what their users want that they forget they need to tell their users a story instead of trying to guess what story they want to hear. It’s much more fun this way, adds to the surprise!

And that’s the key, great storytelling. A great website is a great story. Save the trials and tribulations for Greek tragedies and fairy tales.

For more read Seth Godin’s post on “The no-problem problem“.

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Nathaniel Flick

I'm a Front End Web Developer passionate about usability. My primary specialties are HTML5, CSS3, SCSS, LESS, and jQuery and I am very familiar with Foundation and Bootstrap frameworks. I've worked on top of and with WordPress, Shopify, Rails, Python, and ASP.net/Umbraco frameworks.