Starting to Understand Users

14.03.2016 |

Episode #3 of the course “The Fundamentals of User Experience” by Cassius Kiani


Anything living that interacts with a product (online or offline) is a user.

And one of the hardest things to wrap your head around with user experience is your (or anyone else’s) users.

In fact, it doesn’t matter what industry or sector you’re in—understanding your users will ultimately change the way you approach every decision you make.

Not only will you make smarter and more informed decisions, you’ll be able to solve real problems and add tons of value (in a way you never thought possible).

So how do you understand your users? Probably the simplest ways are through direct or passive research.

Passive research is the process of learning about your users without them knowing you’re doing it. It sounds sneaky, but it’s quite the opposite. With passive research, you use tools or your own initiative to find out how your users interact with something and analyze the results.

Passive research is perfect for getting ideas off the ground and testing out new hypotheses. You can use passive research to learn more about your “perfect user” (more in the next lesson) and how they interact with similar products and environments.

It can also be a lot quicker to collate passive research.

Examples: MixPanel and HotJar

With direct research, you’ll just ask your users for their thoughts and feedback. It’s a much more to-the-point method of research, but it doesn’t always deliver accurate results. Sometimes your users won’t give any feedback, and sometimes what they do give won’t be actionable at all.

Direct research requires an open dialogue between you and your users. It’s a great way to gather insight into the way users feel, as it is much more qualitative than quantitative. Sometimes learning how something feels (from the perspective of another human being) is game-changing.

Although it’s more time-consuming than passive research, direct research is much more human, and in certain scenarios, it’s the better route to take.

Examples: Survey Monkey and TypeForm.

Understanding your users is invaluable, and it’s the absolute key to crafting a good (if not amazing) user experience.

In the next lesson, we’ll cover what information you should be trying to find out about your users and how you can use that to create a delightful experience.

Here’s some light reading to help you out in the meantime:

A Five-Step Process For Conducting User Research

How to Conduct User Research and Build Features


Recommended book

“Inspired: How To Create Products Customers Love” by Marty Cagan


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