Realism in UI Design - Interface vs Customer
I found this post by way of the Daily Exhaust blog. It uses the classic book Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud to illustrate why the use of symbols and generic imagery is essential to User Interface design.
The image on the left is a face of a specific person. The image on the right is the concept «face»; it could be any person. When designing user interfaces, we rarely ever want to show a specific entity; typically, we want to convey an idea or a concept. Details can easily distract from that idea or concept.
While this is sage advice in regards to UX and software navigation principles, take care not to follow this line of thinking when working with customers. A customer, each one of them, is a distinct user with an individual instinct, interest, and personality. Each is motivated by different things with different preferences.
Your interaction with a customer needs to be different from your software's interaction with the same customer. Where software is all-encompassing, you need to be perceptive of nuance and detail. It is this basic conflict that makes designing a customer-facing software interface such a pivotal piece of the development puzzle.