When it comes to getting my work done, I’m generally not too dogmatic about applications, frameworks, or workflows. But I suppose there’s one design tool I can’t do without. And hey, here it is:

“What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?”

I’ve written about this question before, and mentioned it again in a recent interview, but it’s something that applies to every part of my design practice. In fact, it’s a question I ask myself almost daily. It’s a great way to remind myself that the way I browse the web isn’t representative of the way everyone else browses the web.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m the visual lead on a project, and I’m working on a layout in Sketch, Illustrator, or what-have-you. Asking myself that question — “What if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?” — is a great way to remind myself that if I’m working on, say, a widescreen layout, my decisions will impact the experience on smaller screen. (And vice versa.)

It’s just as valuable when I’m working on a project’s front-end, deciding on how components should be built, or how a page should be structured. In those moments, that question — “what if someone doesn’t browse the web like I do?” — can provide a crucial reminder that not everyone will see the web as I do, or that some will have images disabled to help preserve their data, or that others may use their keyboard to tab through my design — and on, and on, and on.

In other words, this question forces me to step outside my default assumptions and biases about how I think the web works. It’s a way for me stop, pause, and reflect on what other folks’ needs might be, and to think about how best to design for those needs. So, yeah: this little question’s proven to be a really useful design tool. I can’t do my job without it.