Great UX gives customers something they didn’t know they needed

Cindy Pae-Moebius / Thursday, January 15, 2015

Some of the best user experiences come when something delightful and unexpected happens that help users or customers with a problem they didn’t even know they had. The art of creating a need that never existed before lies in not just understanding the problem at hand, but also understanding the people that have the problem.

Here's an example: The other day, my sister messaged me: "Is there anyone you are feeling particularly resentful toward? Because you need to see"

Well, this is just perfect. Despite my repeated attempts to be a better person I could still think of a few choice people who NEED glitter. BADLY. Unfortunately, the site was down most of the day yesterday as potential customers flooded it. According to, the day after it went viral the creator of the site regretted his success despite hitting the proverbial jackpot. He created a need for something that people didn’t know they needed: a LOT of people have enemies; a LOT of people hate glitter (A LOT). In this case, it backfired on him because he wasn’t prepared to actually fulfill the need. He has since shut down the ordering system and is now looking for a buyer.  I’d bet a lot of companies would love to have this kind of problem.


image courtesy of

So why don’t more companies succeed at this? One theory I have is that many companies just take a list of customer requests and add it to ‘the backlog’ to prioritize. Then they wonder why they’re not more successful - they ‘listen to their customers’. 

The problem is this: not a lot of customers know exactly what they need.  Did you know you needed to ship glitter to your enemies? I didn’t. Had you asked me how I’d enact revenge, I dare say glitter would not have been my first choice. But once it was presented to me as a solution, the glitter was necessary.

The trick in creating a great user experience is to really understand what your customers need. But to do that, you need to understand who they are and what problems they are having - that includes problems they may or may not even realize they are having. You need to turn those customer "wants" back into problems for which you can then provide a solution.

A colleague of mine used to say "if the customer comes to us with a solution, we have a problem". This goes along with one of my favorite quotes (attributed to Henry Ford): "If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they would have asked for a faster horse." This applies whether you’re creating a product, an app, a website, or anything customer-facing. It is simply how you give your customers a great user experience. Don’t just take it on its face when customers or users tell you what they want.

Give their enemies glitter.