A guest post by Emessence Co-Founder Ryan Bloom

If there is one word to describe a startup, it would be “busy.”

At a growing company, there are always more things to do than people to do them, and often times those who are most successful are the ones who can be decisive and execute on a given objective efficiently. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, after all the old saying “time is money” has never been truer in the fast paced world of internet startups. However, this approach can lead to trouble when employees begin to jump to solutions before truly understanding their customer’s problems. Often, companies will line up a slew of customer interviews and soon after, product teams will have a list of features and screen-shots ready to go into production. Thoroughly defining your user’s goals can feel like a step backwards; why think about the problem when you’ve already got the solution?

The flaw in this logic really hit home for us at Emessence. Before the UX Boot Camp, we typically conducted several interviews with patients, did a quick debrief afterwards, and immediately made several conclusions about what types of product features would accommodate the many needs of our patient population. For example, we noticed that patients often asked for a way to reliably track their symptoms, so we just brainstormed a variety of unique ways that this could be done. However, with deeper investigation conducted by participants at the UX Boot Camp, we learned that the goal of the patients wasn’t really just to track symptoms — that was just a task in service of a key goal. Their real goal was to understand what was happening to them and feel empowered enough to do something about it.

This key insight led to new feature and product concepts almost indistinguishable from what we had originally dreamed up. Instead of journaling apps that allowed patients to log how they were feeling every day, we now were brainstorming ways that an application could help the doctor and the patient work together, to integrate patient symptoms with medical test results and determine the most effective ways to manage the disease. Designing for a goal rather than a task enabled us to think about our app in a whole new way and start down the road towards a much more powerful product.

Creating great products requires more than just talking to your users (though that is a big part!). Rather, talking to your users is just part of a larger process of understanding your users true goals. The transition from designing for your users tasks to designing for your users goals is one that takes a bit more work, patience, and rigorous application of proven design principles — no cutting corners! However, this is the only way that we can stop building mediocre, “faster horse”-type solutions and start launching products that will truly delight, and help, our customers.

Ryan Bloom is a scientist and entrepreneur based in the SF Bay Area.