Walk a while in someone else's shoes: Exploring the Role of C...s

I do not know whether you know it, but that came through louder and clearer in the last couple of months and years is the need to reconcile what the involved parties of project wants – the Ps being the Providers, Principals, Producer (companies, enterprise, …) and what the Cs wants – the Consumer, the Customers, Casual - and Commercial User (individual person, users, …); and how we bring them together.

Throughout my work as town planner, IA and UX planner I saw again and again that agencies and departments most often planed for the Ps seldom for the Cs and sometimes for the ghost of something they called “the good design” (hunting awards or just compliments of their trade and profession) .

Sometimes and more and more I am fed up to stress that Design is not Art – Yes sometimes and in some cases the borders are blurred – Design intends to accomplish goals, have to satisfy a set of requirements and at the end it would be great if there is something like the joy of use.

And design thinking (DT) is a shared mind-set that uses the whole design-team’s awareness and methods for problem solving to meet participants’ needs in a technologically and commercially feasible and practical way. In other words, design thinking is not less than human-centered development.

It’s so much essential to bring people, to bring consumers into the strategic, creative and development process to creating things.

Bringing together the experiences, the needs and expectation of the Cs to help facilitate and create the fundament to comply and satisfy the requirements of the Ps.

Sometimes it’s a good thing helping the client to walk a few miles / a few moments with customers’ shoes – what I try to do is just, sort of, hold the mirror to my clients, and sort of go:”Hey come on, let’s see, what’s really going on.”

I am not the one who shows colorful, fancy org charts or even worse, some kind of gruesome powerpoint things all too often wow-charts.

We have to help our clients to step out of their position, out of their role and to see the world with consumer’s eyes. I don’t use the expression or naming user or customer because there is a world, there are situations before a person becomes a user and or customer. The range of the “Cs” is enormous.
  • C's role
  • C's situation
  • C's experience
  • C's preconception

I think we all know the proverbs : Missing the wood for the trees - and - In the law there are no small cases, only small lawyers. (There are no small parts, only small actors.). I quote these proverbs for several reasons – never miss the whole picture and don’t miss the details. Because the whole picture is drawn by tiny brushstrokes.

Looking at the situation from the position of the real small person –out - as opposed to the traditional position of the organization – in – hopefully will make the Ps understand what is the over view from the outside – what is crucial, what is important, what helps and what is nice to have.

That sounds easy but it isn’t – it’s one of the hardest thing to do as a designer coming into someone else's domain and then help them see outside of the box. To leave his well known inside view and take a view from the outside. By the way it’s absolutely human that this frightens more or less every one. We have to keep in mind that we are hired because we should have the ability, the freedom and the power to do things different than the organization.

Putting each member and participant of the team (client-sided, agency-sided, …) in someone else's shoe is all one needs to best serve their desires.

And it might be also the understanding that it’s about tiny things that can make a huge amount of difference all too often – if just optimize this and other elements or you design the “huge overall relaunch / bead-to-bead remould” . And perhaps you realize that it is not always or in many cases needed to renew everything.

It is expected that you will listen to the organization and stakeholders and their wants, but most of the time I found they can only point to other already produced things and say "do something like that", regardless of how useful it is.

Change your view on things and help others to do the same and use it as an opportunity to create new possibilities. But there is always more … not only the in or out – what about the edge of thing and the horizon a more global view on the field of vision. Currently I am privately standing at such an edge of being and living – but that’s just a marginal note. Yes it is frightened, Yes there are all too often unknown and unfamiliar ways to go or fields to deal with but they are often a really interesting place to start new or different. So, looking wide, using your peripheral vision is a really exciting and sometimes thrilling place to look for chances and breaks.

We can draw so much from watching how people do things, handle something, how they act, … we just have to recognize it, realize what they do and why they do it in the way how they do it. That implies sometimes that we have to or should re-frame the ordinary and standard. And once again we are in the situation that it’s needed to put yourself in the position of the target person and to understand that intuition, utility and usability is no general or common thing.

Big or small, judging, understanding and taking in account of participant’s habits can require significant physical and mental effort.

But what also comes clearer and louder, as I said at the start of this article, is: Where do we have to start? How do we should start? What do I do to start? There is no standard way to start – it depends on – but there are several ways and tools to get into the various positions. But it’s not the task of one single person it’s the task of a team with a common design thinking and user experience planning http://boxesandarrows.com/view/ux-design-planning.

Various tools and methods:
AB Testing, Benchmark study, Click tracking, Cognitive walkthrough, Contextual inquiry, Card sorting (http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/2009/08/card-sorting.html), Diary study, Prototyping, Eye tracking, Expert review, Feedback form, Five second test, Focus groups, In-depth interview, Personas, Questionnaire, Repertory grid technique, Think-aloud protocol, Web analytics, Wizard of Oz and various creativity techniques (http://ux4dotcom.blogspot.com/search/label/analysis%20and%20creative%20technique).


  1. Holger,
    I enjoyed your article very much, and appreciate the depth with which you have began to deal with the subject.

  2. Pretty cool article and very nice work .
    I really like this article! And I strongly believe user experience design is the X-factor for everything we design.
    Keep it up – Thanks for sharing with us

  3. Holger, this is a great article. I especially like the "lifecycle” diagrams

  4. Wow what an inspiring blog post. It gives me thoughts on taking different views of my own work and future promotions. Thanks!


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