Who Is Your User?
Welcome to Day 3 of our course on design and user experience!
Yesterday, we discussed user experience and how we can design that by focusing on users throughout the design process, which we can only do if we have a very clear understanding of our users.
Today’s email will focus on the first step in the User-Centered Design process: understanding your users and their needs, which we get through User Research.
“To design the best UX, pay attention to what users do, not what they say.” —Jakob Nielsen
User Research helps us understand user needs, behaviors, and motivations. These insights help us design to meet those needs.
User Research begins with identifying the key user groups to focus our efforts on. Contrary to common expectations, we cannot design for everyone, so we focus on the groups that matter the most to our business and make sure the design beats their expectations.
We can only do that if we really understand users’ needs and expectations—those of actual, real users, not those of the designer nor the sales and marketing department nor the user surrogates.
User Research Methods
“If I asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses.’” —Henry Ford
User Research is not about just asking people what they want, but collecting data and gathering insights to inform our design through different methods, including:
User observation. We observe real users in their actual environment (where they use the interfaces), trying to complete tasks using the interface we are redesigning. If this is a new interface, we observe how they currently do their job and look for ways a new interface could make it easier for them.
This helps us understand how they use the interface naturally, their pain points, and the workarounds they use to smooth over those pain points. For instance, one client’s users would have sticky note cheat sheets on their monitors or keyboards, listing the sequence of steps to use to complete a complex task because it wasn’t intuitive and did not have any help available in the application.
Interviews. Interviewing users one-on-one is often done following the user observation session and provides the why behind what they did and how they did it. It often uncovers additional pain points and areas of improvement. Interviewing key stakeholders one-on-one provides insight into their expectations and success criteria, which are important considerations during design.
Surveys. Conducting online surveys are a quick way to get quantitative feedback from a large group of users, as well as give them the opportunity to have their say in the process. Survey results help you understand your users and their satisfaction with the current site or application.
Group reviews. A group review session is a moderated discussion that typically involves six to eight users from the same user group. We often use this forum to walk through an existing site or experience and get their feedback and reactions.
Coming out of our field research, we have a good understanding of:
1. our key user groups, which help us create representative profiles (personas) that become a key part of the design and development process
2. the ways these user groups interact with the client across touchpoints and channels, which are often visualized as customer journey maps that show what they think, feel, and do and their positive and negative interactions in that experience
3. their needs, which get translated into user requirements that are different from, but often complement, business requirements
We will take a closer look at these three outputs of User Research in tomorrow’s email.
Here’s to exercising your design eye!
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