Any great user experience practitioner will tell you that you need to define who your users are (Personas/User Profiles) and identify their behaviors (Usability testing/ Ethnography) before designing can begin or should continue. And if you do not have any users yet, these steps are even more critical.
This is necessary because you want to be sure you are building the right feature set for your users. While determining this, you should be questioning your assumptions. Do I really know if my users need a mobile app? Otherwise you are susceptible to building something that you believe your users need, but not actually what they need. Could it be that a responsive website would accommodate their needs?
There are many tools you can utilize to have a clearer understanding of your users. And though these tools are great, you will never have a perfect understanding of your users. The idea is not to be perfect though, just better. Always better — using what you learn about your users over time.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, user experience is thought of as a drive-through; it is just one step in the process or something that can quickly be fixed.
“Oh no! Our product is failing because so many of our users are having trouble using it. We were expecting this release to go better!”
This is a very expensive mistake which is less expensive to be solved before it happens because you are not building and discarding entire works that should not have been built. Continuously before, during, and after a product is built you should have user needs indicating what will be built. Each successive test and update will build upon previous successes.
Some or all of the following should be created or conducted prior to design beginning, refined later, and supplemented with other tools such as usability testing (identifying pain points), card sorting (for organizing the information architecture of your product), automated analytics (Google Analytics), or ethnography (in depth analysis of how a product or service fits with their lives).
The first four tools will help you build personas, user profiles, and scenarios.
- User Interviews
- One-on-One discussions between a UX practitioner and users that can be grouped within the personas. Remember, there is no ‘average’ user rather there are different user groups of users.
- Literature User Analysis
- Reading literature written about users or by users. For example, you are building a communication application so you could look at some of the most popular applications and see praises or complaints written by those users.
- Stakeholder Interviews
- This is especially helpful if your budget constraints do not allow you to speak with users yet. I say yet because if you do not ever talk to your users, you are doing yourself a real disservice. You can learn a lot from your happy and unhappy customers; beyond what your stakeholders may be willing to say; who wants to say that their product they built is not great? Many customers are more than willing to let you know.
- Self-Indicated Behaviors
- Personas (basics including a visual representation) & User Profiles (detailed data) from the four tools above for:
- Current users
- New Users
- Future Desired Users
- Realistic real-world activities that a user would conduct. For example, for a communication application a scenario would be: “I need to be able to contact my colleagues immediately and I cannot have connectivity issues as it will damage my business relationships” or “While talking to a colleague online I need to quickly send large files (1GB) or larger without having to open another tool such as Drop Box.”
- With these personas, user profiles, and scenarios now built, you can begin creating low fidelity designs (such as paper sketches) and begin testing those designs with users (Usability Testing). Then you can move onto higher fidelity designs (such as an interactive prototypes made in a tool such as Axure) that can then be taken to be developed in code or into a physical object to be again tested.
These types of activities will help you build a high quality product that has a better chance of being purchased or used by your users. This is because you’re considering their needs and behaviors when designing and building your product.
If you need help with these activities you can contact us at Saxony Partners and we would be happy to help or you can seek out others to help. Remember, to be successful, whomever is helping you should have a firm grasp of the concepts above, experience conducting them, and emphasize testing as being key to a great customer experience.
About the author
Consultant, User Experience
Ryan is responsible for conducting UX research and design work at Saxony. He has experience practicing UX in many industries: Education, Travel, Telecom, Health Care, Pharmaceuticals, eCommerce, Hospitality, and Real Estate.