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The Power of the Why

More and more the answer of the question, ‘Can we build it?’ is increasingly, yes, yes we can, but as we continue to mature the question more and more becomes, ‘Should we build it?’ - Design Disruptors



Understanding the power of the Why of what you are doing– by understanding your users’ story, provides both the passion and insight to deliver better products in the face of seemingly insurmountable pressures. More and more millennials are citing a primary motivating factor in their work being that they want to understand that the things that they make meaningfully impact the world1. As an engineer, we are frequently solving difficult and complex problems, implementing beautiful UI’s and other fun engineering-maker type tasks, but

     without understanding the context of the Why, even the most exciting problems can lose their luster.

Besides losing their luster, an even bigger issue that comes about by not having experiences which help to contextualize the work you are doing is a loss of understanding and empathy for the problems your users are facing. When engineers (and makers-at-large) begin to lack clarity on who their users are, the products that they are building begin to lose continuity for those users.

I attended the premier of Design Disruptors in Charleston, SC and had the opportunity to meet with some of the users of our product at InVision. The ability to get first hand, unfiltered insight into the pain of our users and the problems that they are attempting to solve, gives great insight into the Why of what I am doing. When you are determining the Why, it is very powerful to understand the challenges and pain of your users. After the premier I spoke with InVision user Matthew Brown, VP of Design and UX at Benefitfocus a leading online health insurance provider. He shared one of the design challenges that they face which really struck me:

When a customer of theirs passes away, the way that their product interacts with the surviving family members can either create an amazing emotional connection with the company, or completely destroy it. At this moment in their lives, how we present seemingly minor technical details has a huge impact on their state.

As he described, detailed nuances of how their design team is handling such an important moment and season within someone’s life, with empathy through design, he was giving me – a developer of the tools for crafting that experience, a deep sense of responsibility. Only by interacting with our users can we uncover more and more the why of what we are doing, providing empathy, passion and sense of responsibility to continue to ship amazing tools to solve these complex problems.


1: What Millenial Employees Really Want, Fast Company, The Motivating Trifecta: Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink

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Jeremy is an Engineering Manager at InVision.

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