Seth Godin Teaches a Good Lesson About Design

[A guest post by Karam Debly]

Through a friend, I learned that Seth Godin put out a call on his blog for developers to apply to build a mobile app.

I wrote the following in my application.

“I’m writing to tell you that I don’t think your blog, which i love, warrants an app.

We believe strongly in responsive design and your site should be designed to look good on any platform.

I have a hunch that if people are asking you for an app they are either responding to trends or telling you your site doesn’t look good on mobile devices and/or tablets.

A solid designer should be trying to solve a problem, not building you shit you don’t need.”

I wrote that quickly. Besides grammar, I would change the last sentence. Solid is vague, I mean responsible.

I have since looked at his site and blog (I should’ve looked before I hit send, I can be impulsive). Both sites don’t work on common mobile and tablet screen resolutions.

There’s a great lesson here.

What do you tell a potential client who is asking for a proposal for something that you think is missing the problem in the first place? Even if that potential client is Seth Godin.

I would ask the client to back up and describe the problem in more detail.

Is the problem really that Seth Godin doesn’t have a mobile app? Or is that a symptom of the problem?

The problem, in my humble opinion, is that his site doesn’t work on smaller screens. It’s very difficult to read. Mobile users aren’t tolerating pinch to zoom anymore. And they shouldn’t. Designers have built a better way to interact with a site on smaller screens.

I think Mobile apps can be useful. It’s just that none of the other details he wrote warrant an app either. He’s not interested in monetization (Let’s be honest, that’s a big reason for mobile app development). The main feature for the app is that it displays articles from his RSS feed and links to sell his books. Oh, and share buttons for social media. These are all features that could be easily incorporated in a responsive site. There’s one vague requirement that I’m just going to interpret as “anything else you think would be cool” and leave it out of this.

Seth doesn’t need a mobile app. He needs a new site. And a responsible design company would tell him that. I’m surprised he missed something this obvious. I’m also surprised that no one around him pointed out his mistake. However, I won’t be surprised that mobile app developers won’t mention that. They are responding to his call after all.

Seth messed up, it happens. Don’t let your clients make the same mistake. They might end up blaming you. They should. You’re supposed to be the expert.

P.S. I put TBD in the Budget field of my application.

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