A friend of mine hunts down dangerous fugitives for a living.
Bill is a U.S. Marshall and is very good at what he does. A few months ago, I saw him walking with a bandage on his hand. Curious, I asked him what happened. Maybe he cut it doing some yard work? “Well”, he said, ”I had to smash through a car window to pull out a fugitive who tried to escape.” “Really?” I replied, “The worst injuries I get at work are a slight cramp in my pinky from too many mouse clicks.”
Bill and I go to the range every once in a while and shoot the breeze (no pun intended). I enjoy picking his brain as I like the Chuck Norris-esque of his job and am sure he pulls out a roundhouse kick from time to time. I asked him about what helps track these guys down. Without giving detail, he explained the importance of research. Bill spends more time learning about the fugitive, their habits, family, their likes, dislikes, etc… than anything. The more information he has, the easier it is to anticipate their next move.
How many times have you had a client approach you with the need for X as soon as possible and it needs to “look good”? Only after asking them who will be using it and what the site’s objectives are do they even think about it.
The problem is, they want results and research doesn’t come in a shiny package. It is up to us as designers to persuade them to understand its importance… even if that means a roundhouse kick (Disclaimer: Don’t actually roundhouse kick a client, however, if needs be, show a picture of yourself doing a roundhouse kick so they understand).
With that said, Bill could spend all his time researching and never catch anyone if he never went to work. The key is to gather a comfortable amount of user research so we have a clear focus before embarking on our designs.
Just like Bill and his hopeless fugitives, the more we know about our users, the better we can anticipate their next move.