Stop giving customers what they ask for. Yup, you heard me right!


Yup, I said it.

Just say, "no" to customer requests for features.

Or rather, say, "why do you need that?"

Today's design tip is simple: build the word "why" into your vocabulary when talking to your customers. Be incessant until you "ladder up" and get to the meat of the matter.

Asking "why" is critical designing great products. When that customer says, "I wish I could see this stat A over time compared to stat B," you should be asking them, "why." What customers ask for often isn't reflective of what they need to actually solve the problem that exists at the top of the ladder. Customers aren't designers and product developers. As product people, we have to discover, design, and provide customers with what they actually need, and not what they said they wanted.

Here's a sample dialog:

Customer: "I want to see A over time compared to B so that I can do C."

You: "Why do you want to do that?"

Customer: "So that I can tell my boss how often D happens."

You: "Oh I see. Why does that matter?"

Customer: "Well, we always take E action whenever D happens, which occurs whenever there is a strong correlation between A and B. Right now, I have to visit two screens to do that and I don't always have time to log in or check this out, and sometimes I forget."

You: "Got it. Well, what if we just sent you a notification or summary, say every week, whenever that correlation exists? Would that be helpful?"

Customer: "Yes! Then I wouldn't have to log in at all and I could just forward it to my boss. That would save me time and make sure we don't miss opportunities. I didn't know you could do that."

You: "Well, maybe we can, now that I understand what you need!"

As a product owner, wouldn't you rather offer that useful notification tactic instead of "more product" in the form of more charts and screens people have to wade through? More product isn't always better.

If you haven't done this before, that's ok. A lot of people don't do it. In fact, my clients are often the "Customer" in the sample dialog above, and I'm playing the role of the interviewer. The goal is the same: to uncover the latent problems or needs that typically exist below the surface of the "ask."