Robert had some wonderful insights and, perhaps most importantly, some excellent principles you can apply to your work every day. The three principles that resonated with me were:
- Understand users — but ignore them. More precisely, watch and learn for what users do, but don't take what they say as gospel. Users often don't know (or can't explain) what they want or why they want it, so asking them directly isn't useful.
- Build only what's absolutely necessary. Simple things are the most functionally flexible — whether it's the Google search box or a paper clip.
- Turn beginners in intermediates immediately. In other words, find a way to give your newest, most anxious users some really easy wins and some warm feelings right from the start.
But there was one of Robert's principles that caused me to raise an eyebrow:
- Design to support activity, not user groups.
In other words, in Robert's view, you should focus on designing for the activities that link all your users — whether that be reading sports content, managing calendar events or organizing photos.
He believes that if you start crafting your sites in response to specific user groups, you will end up designing overly complex, multi-personality applications that don't really work properly for anyone.