The 1st User Interface You Design for Your Client is You

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Every day everybody struggles with deadlines (usually set by dogma or a deity), ill communication practices like using email as the task management or wiki platform of the project and the fact that all these should generate enough profit per hour to be logical for us to continue on the field and not open a kebab shop (which also should generate enough profit per hour to be logical for us to continue making kebabs, it’s a vicious circle).

At the same time, we try to accomplish things in stressful ways and at the times we live in, in an environment that introduces us to new people (sometimes with very diverse views of the world) in a pace that nobody seems to be able to keep.

The most usual effect of those things is to affect the professional relation we have with our clients and to transfer bad experiences we once had with a client, to the next client and so on and so on.

That can create a very toxic environment in which both us and our clients, plant the seeds of our dreams and expectations from life.

One idea that helped me develop long lasting fruitful collaborations with people, comes from the field of education and instructional design and can be applied to customer relations and business ethics and code of conduct. Not to mention that it solves the issues presented above once and for all. Did I mention that?

User interface design to the rescue

I will take it from the start and explain my logic. What is a user interface? Wikipedia offers a nice description:

“The user interface (UI), in the industrial design field of human–computer interaction, is the space where interactions between humans and machines occur. The goal of this interaction is to allow effective operation and control of the machine from the human end, whilst the machine simultaneously feeds back information that aids the operators’ decision-making process.”

From that we can deduct two goals:

  1. Allow effective operation and control… Let’s keep “effective operation” here.
  2. And give back information that aids the making of decisions… Let’s keep “aiding decisions” here.

A parallel dimension

Allow me here, to take you on a trip to another dimension. The dimension in which you are not a designer, but a teacher, lecturing on a classroom. What would you do, to make learning easy for your students? What would you like for your teachers to do, when you were a student?

Make it fun, informative, easy (intuitive) to follow and keep it focused on the day’s topic, right?

And here, lies the essence of good user interface design. An interface, to be usable, should complete those tasks:

  • Be intuitive so the user knows what to do without any manuals.
  • Stay focused on task, so the task gets all the attention and gets completed fast.
  • Give back enough information to facilitate scaffolding of knowledge and a learn-as-you-go experience, that everybody loves (I can even define that a carefree life is a life that you learn as you go, and it’s doesn’t throw you all information at the beginning).
  • Be fun to use. Cause when you are doing your stuff you are at the highest of your existential experience and nobody likes a party-pooper!

A quick note is that, all the above, add to the fact that the most useful tools (and UIs in the perspective of this article) are those that remain transparent between the user and the accomplishment.

There you have it. Any teacher that strives for those values, will be a loved and praised mentor both in classroom and in life. Because that person will be transparent between the student and the transfer of knowledge, therefore be most useful.

Back to professionalism

But enough about education, this article is not about that. Let’s return to the dimension of the designer and/or entrepreneur who fights everyday with projects and clients. What all that has to do with him?

You see, one of the biggest changes a professional can make, is to be usable to the client. I know that we like to think that being the best at what we do if key and that being able to keep that on low rates for the client will make us a lucrative option. But the reality is that, in the end, we must be useful in order for the rest to fall into place. And that is a universal truth, as in nature survival mechanisms favor the most useful options and not the cheapest or the most knowledgeable.

Finally, this logic reaches to a conclusion.

Conclusion

The first interface that your client will interact with, is you! So, the first interface that you should design, is you!

And I will give you a list of suggestions derived from the logic that guided me to this conclusion.

You got to:

Be intuitive

This can be achieved by knowing well your clientele and how they operate and hone your affordances well for that audience, make it easy for them to use you. Good design on that area will also avoid them to abuse you.

Stay focused

One of the most prominent features of the professional practitioner, the ability to stay focused on the work at hand, will always leave people with a great aftertaste of your collaboration.

Provide enough information

As a multidimensional sapient creature, you are at two places in the same time. You are both a professional, providing services or goods to your clients and an educator, who transfers knowledge to them in the easiest way possible. Make them wiser and they will trust your decisions more and more very day. Give someone a fish and you feed that person for a day, teach him fishing and that person will never be hungry again.

I’m not saying for a graphic designer to try and make a graphic designer out of a lawyer who wants a website. I think you catch my drift.

Be fun

Again, don’t be a party-pooper, making things should be a celebration. Most of the times we solve problems and it’s hard and that left most of society to think about work in a negative way, but those who found the truth in hard working, know that it’s a celebration of existence.

Try to leave your personal matters outside of work. Even better, work can act as an anti-stress activity in your life, if your highness can shift its viewing angle a little bit for the collective good and start enjoying being useful for the fellow man and the society.

From now on

It’s easy to be a great experience yourself and all your clients to love working with you every time. This will be imprinted in their decision-making process and you’ll never lose a client again. Turning your efforts from searching clients to searching partners to handle a growing clientele!

If you remember the 4 principles described in this article, you will – as we highlighted earlier – allow your clients to operate effectively and help them make the right decisions.

There is a famous quote by Bruce Lee, “Be water, my friend, be water”.

I would like to add a little something of my own. Water can be muddy or crystal clear, brine or drinkable, distilled or even evaporated. Each good or bad depending on the use.

I say, “Be useful water”. And you will quench their thirst, and they will build high with you, and they will preserve their goods, and they will run their engines with you.

Be useful water!

Author Panagiotis Kouvelis

Panagiotis Kouvelis is a creative media consultant, producer, educator and instructional designer, who loves sound design, science and martial arts. He is also the founder of the creative media company MediaFlake Ltd and its divisions, the SoundFellas Immersive Audio Labs and the Blueface Games Interactive Entertainment Software House.

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