Time Is Your First Constraint

Constraints are a designer’s best friend. The more constraints the better, as it’s all-too-easy to feel lost amongst the seemingly infinite amount of possibilities when designing anything, but especially so for digital products.

Yet for some reason we ignore the one constraint that matters most: The amount of time a user has for our products. Instead, we choose to believe that people have time to spare for whatever we’re selling. Or worse, that they’ll make time for it. But it’s not our job to make the best product; It’s our job to make the best product people have time for.

We all have our daily routines, and when we come across a new product we wonder how it might fit into our day. Is this something that can save me time? Will using it allow me to rid myself of something I already use? The amount of time something takes to learn, use, and benefit from greatly influences our decision to buy.

Treat your user’s time like a finite resource. Put an actual time limit on it, and let that help guide the prioritization of features. If users are only willing to spend 10 minutes a day with your product, how much time does that allot for each feature? Is that enough for it to be useful? If not, cut it. If users don’t have any time for it, make it work without requiring work from the user or kill the product entirely.

When working on HubSpot’s social publishing and monitoring tool, I think about how our users use it throughout their day and how it fits in with their many other responsibilities. How much time do existing users spend using it? How much time do they want to spend? The closer I can get those numbers together the more likely it will be adopted by others.

The best products are the ones people have time for. When you design without any regard for a user’s daily routine they’ll likely never take the time to get started. And if people don’t have time for your product then it certainly isn’t worth your time to build it.

Share this post:

You might also like The Secret to Snapchat's Growth, Where Designers Earn Their Keep, or Their Questions Are Your Answer