Ego-Driven Design

Ian Lurie

I’ve gotten great comments since I put my book online. One of the best was:

As I continue reading, I am hoping for insight on how to respectfully convince the ego-driven website owners to convert to a conversation-based approach. Can it even be done?


They wrote that to me after reading about how to dress appropriately. The key to dressing appropriately is designing a site for your audience, not for you. The former is great design. The latter is ego-driven design.

Ego-driven design leads to sites that may be ‘cool’, but definitely aren’t ‘appropriate’.

So, how do you avoid it? Here’s what’s worked for me (or at least avoided disaster):

Don’t Give In. My job is to give good advice. No matter what. Creating a site that makes my client happy but fails as a selling tool is a huge disservice. So I don’t give in.

Be Diplomatic. See it from their viewpoint. The client (or your boss) doesn’t spend every day pondering their online audience. They know what they like, and they assume their audience will like it, too. So telling them they’re dopes (or believing it) isn’t fair, and it isn’t correct.

Use the Numbers. If you have data – any data – use it. How old is your client’s average customer? How do they interact with your client? Do they browse? Get right to the point? What questions do they ask that, if you answer them, will make them customers? That kind of information is gold. The way they act offline is a hint of how they’ll act online.

Compromise. You can often balance your client’s perfect design with their client’s perfect design. They want fancy animation, but you know the customers want fast access to information? Maybe you can put the animation in a smaller ‘nugget’ on the home page, and still provide the information, too. There’s almost always a compromise.

I don’t claim to have all the answers. But these little bits of advice can help. Got other ideas? Let me know and I’ll add them…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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