We hear it all the time when we ask, "Who is your product for?" The answer is too frequently, "Oh, it's for everyone!" ... as if that is a good thing. I can understand the misconception. By designing your product for "everyone" it may feel like you're de-risking your success, but the reality is, you're doing just the opposite.
Imagine you are put in charge of preparing one entree to please 10 dinner guests. The catch is, the group is made up of a variety of people picked at random. Suddenly the task becomes much more challenging and the chance of delighting everyone plummets.
What should you make?
Wait, what if someone has a food allergy?
How are you supposed to guarantee everyone likes it?
The answer is by making sure no one dislikes it. Since you have no clue if your group contains kids, adults, picky eaters, fine diners or all of the above, you're going to do one of two things:
Play it safe by preparing a dish that is common or inoffensive to most.
Go through the work of getting to know who each of your guests is and what they like and then crafting a dish that somehow is the common denominator between all of their preferences.
Your focus is probably going to shift from trying please all 10 guests to just making something each guest will find edible. As a result, chances will be slim that anyone walks away claiming your meal was the best they've ever had.
We want the opposite. We want your guests to be raving fans. The type of fans that that can't help but tell their friends about your dish. The type of fans that give you their attention and jump at the chance to enjoy another meal you prepare.
The same can be said for attempting to design your product for "everyone."
"When you design for everyone, you design for no one."
Here are a few observations when it comes to designing for "everyone":
you're designing for NO ONE
A truly desirable product jumps off of that magazine page and whispers temptations into your customer's ear. When you design for "everyone" your product tries to whisper the same words to everyone. The problem with this is that different people have specific desires and therefore naturally have differing temptations. In an attempt to speak to everyone, your words must be surface level and unobjectionable by everyone, resulting in striking a nerve with no one.
You need to know exactly who your product is for and how it will satisfy their particular desires. Focus your research and design efforts on the smallest viable target user group so that you can design your product to speak directly to its intended audience. Many decisions need to be made throughout the product development process. Knowing exactly who your user is allows you to tailor the physical and emotional attributes of your product to fit them perfectly.
you're making Your Job HARD
Let's imagine your product really is a solution for almost everybody. Say, it's a pillow that could help kids, grandparents, men, women... really anyone sleep better at night. This may seem to make things easier but in reality, you've just multiplied your work by 10-fold (or more)!
Products that do effectively satisfy "everyone" are actually satisfying a collection of smaller, targeted user groups. This means that you will need to get to know the needs, wants, and preferences of each group AND figure out how to address all of those criteria with just one product. Compromises will inevitably be made. Targeting just one user group reduces your learning curve and allows you to focus your efforts to dig deeper and not wider.
YOU'RE BEING LAZY
By deciding that your product will be for "everyone," you're avoiding the tough work of defining exactly what value your product will deliver and how it'll effectively do so. Unless your product truly is for everyone and you're planning to do the additional work that comes with, it's most likely the case that you're simply not going deep enough.
A highly desirable product makes a person feel like it was made just for them... because it was. The narrower and deeper your focus, the better you'll get to know your user's needs, behaviors, environment, and preferences. You'll be able to connect the dots of your observations to know exactly what meaningful solutions they will find valuable. The ideal outcome would be to gain an understanding of your customer that is so deep that you end up satisfying needs they didn't even realize they had. If your product delights your user in this way, they'll have a hard time NOT purchasing it.
Step back and honestly answer, who is your product for? Is there a smaller, more specific group that you could tailor your product to be a perfect fit for?
Cook an entree to blow away just one person instead of simply feeding 10. Figure out what her favorite meal is, prepare it using only her favorite ingredients and then prepare it better than she's ever experienced before.
It is nearly impossible to design one product that "everyone" finds desirable, but quite lucrative to design one product to perfectly satisfy the desires of your soon-to-be raving fans.