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User Research | 3 TIPS To Make Sure You Meet User Needs

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📌 As a Designer, a Product Manager, a software engineer… anybody working on a digital project, you must know how important UX (User eXperience) is, along with Design Thinking. You are a crucial part of the whole process that needs to create not only products and services answering business goals but also meaningful online experiences so that users want to come back again and again. It is your job to ensure everyone on your team knows and embraces user needs and User Research is your best ally to nail it. 🚀

Today, we all crave simplicity and usability. We want technology that works. But what works for you might not work for someone else. So, what is a simple and usable product? And for whom? How do we create focused, elegant user experiences that people will love?

You ask yourself how to deliver rapidly while doing UX research to ensure user needs are taken into account? Here are some simple (and usable) tips.

#1 TIP. Usability test, just do it 

👉 Usability test must be like a reflex for you. This basic user research tool is easy, fast, and highly effective. It helps identify problems and get almost immediate feedback on an interface with minimal overhead. 

Everybody will have his/her view on the design. Users need to have the final say. As the Nielsen Norman Group explains it in an article: “Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.”

It doesn’t have to be elaborate. As Google shows it in a video, Guerilla Testing is quick and provides good bang for the buck 🙌.

Get started with user testing

❇️ To start, find one person who cares about your product. It doesn’t matter who.
❇️ Arrange to watch them use that product. Go to their house; meet at a café; use screen sharing. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you can clearly see what they’re doing.
❇️ Ask them to use the product to do something they care about: contact a friend; cook dinner; buy something. Whatever.
❇️ Final step: watch them do it.
Don’t: ask questions, tell them what to do, or say anything. Just watch.
❇️ Ask yourself: what did you learn?

And… you’re done!  

You may be wondering: that’s it? That’s all there is to usability? Why do consultancies charge so much money for it, then?

Actually, no. There’s a lot more science, craft, and art to usability than we can get across in under a minute. But usability isn’t brain surgery 🧠 and it’s important to realize that anyone can start practicing the basics in under a minute.

#2 TIP. Get out of the office, start User Research and talk to your users 

👉 Identifying user needs is complicated because users can be quite diverse. Observation is critical, but to really know the user’s experience, you have to ask him/her about it, and that’s an interview.

I’m not talking about the kind of interview an investigative journalist or a prospective employer would hold. As the Interactive Design Foundation shows it in an article, it’s more formal and more standardized.

As a kind of nondirected interview, it tries to minimize the perspective of the person asking the questions in order to explore the user’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences. 

❇️ First, define just who your users are and what they need. Gather any qualitative and quantitative data you can get (data analytics, online studies or articles, comments left by users on forums, social media…).
❇️ Break this mass of user needs down into manageable chunks through user segmentation with certain key characteristics in common (eg. for a social media application: “Consumers” who are users who will only consume content, and “Producers” who are going to actually produce content).
❇️ Then try and find people in your entourage who fit the various segments (in your phonebook, on Facebook, LinkedIn…). 3-4 people can be enough.
❇️ Define the 3-4 leading questions (technological profile, specific uses, needs…). Then you can start interviewing and gathering quick actionable insights.

#3 TIP. Identifying (and communicating) the real problem is key 

👉 Before rushing headlong to answering user needs and finding solutions, you should first take time to identify the problem.  

Here are 2 quotes which say it all:

❇️ Einstein said: “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” Don’t overlook the UX research work. It’s going to pay off big time eventually!
❇️ Henry Ford said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Customers can easily describe a problem they’re having — in this case, wanting to get somewhere faster — but not the best solution. If you ask users for the solution, they won’t necessarily have the right answer.

Steer Wheel

A problem well stated is a problem half solved. Still, how do you turn research into action? Representing insights as deliverables is a crucial part of the job.

UX research has to be delivered in forms that executives and product teams can refer to whenever they need to make decisions. The goal is for them to remember the key points of the story the research tells about the users, the problems or opportunities it reveals, and get to work addressing it.

That’s why personas, scenarios, task analysis diagrams, and experience models are made.

Then, the design thinking process will help you find creative solutions and workshops to solve those complex business problems while meeting user needs. And that’s the heart of the UX designer’s job (but that’s a topic for a whole other article I guess 😉).

🔑 To sum it up, it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we are designing our product or service for one idealized user (one who is like us). UX without user research is a recipe for bad UX. Great design is rooted in user insights.

So don’t be shy, go see who the real user is (not the one you think you know). Do usability tests, interview your users, find what the real problem is before getting all wrapped up in designing and refining the solution. 🎯

And don’t forget that the final goal of research is action, not awed contemplation of the brilliance of your insights.

👉 Is it easy for you to meet user needs? Have you ever taken time to do UX research? 

Written by Sophie Boudet-Dalbin


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