How web design is like Family Feud

I have a friend who loves the Game Show Network, and Family Feud is one of her favorite game shows. Unlike shows such as Jeopardy!, which test your knowledge (or at least your powers of inference), Family Feud tests a different set of skills–namely, your ability to think like an average person. So it’s possible for someone to be really smart and really terrible at Family Feud. Or so I’ve heard. On TV.

However, you can be skilled in both areas. My friend is both very intelligent and better at relating to a wider group of people than I am. If we’re watching Family Feud and come up with different ideas for what might be on the board, chances are that she’s right and I’m wrong.

Now what on earth does this have to do with web design?

Web design is generally something a designer does on a client’s behalf. Even if the client didn’t design any part of the site, users ultimately associate the site with the client. So a big part of a designer’s job is creating something that represents the client well. It can be easy to lose sight of that when you want to wow people with your web wizardry.

For instance, in my web design course with Thinkful, our first project is a hypothetical rebrand of Amazon.com. One of the first steps is to brainstorm some key ideas to incorporate into the rebrand. I attacked this task with enthusiasm and just knew my mentor would be impressed with my efforts.

While there were parts of my brainstorming that my mentor liked, he seemed to think that overall it was a bit too high-concept. He reiterated the importance of creating something that represents the client, and as soon as he said it, it made sense. No matter how clever you might be, if the client wants, for instance, friendly and approachable, that’s what you give them.

Like Family Feud, in web design it’s not enough to be smart or even on top of the latest developments. You have to be able to think like another person to be any good. It’s important to keep your technical skills current, but it’s at least as important, if not more so, to remember the human side of things. It’s amazing how many technical problems have their roots in very human issues (for instance, the biggest security threat to many systems is people’s tendency to be lazy and careless).

I’ve tried to remind myself to stay grounded regularly, and it helps. My mentor still has to pull me back to earth sometimes, but he doesn’t have to pull nearly as hard now. There might even be hope for me with Family Feud. I find that after watching a couple of episodes, my guessing improves. So don’t worry if these skills don’t come naturally; like most things, they can be developed with practice.

What human aspects of the web design process interest you? Let me know in the comments!

A version of this article originally appeared on daniellegaither.com.

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