Focus on people

Working with actual users helps us align on real opportunities, needs, and pain points. When you interact directly with the people you serve, you ensure the team is creating real value for real people. Make your users your North Star.

Engage with different user types

Talking to one person is not enough to develop a broad understanding of all of your users’ needs, especially in an environment where different types of users interact with one another. The more you interact, the better you will understand the range and outliers of their needs. Consider subdividing people into separate user groups. It may be easy to classify users by job role or demographic, but this can lead to overgeneralization. Instead, remember that a person is more than their job title. User understanding starts with knowing a person’s behaviors, motivations, context, individual differences, and external influences.

Actions speak louder than words

It’s hard to remember exactly what you were thinking or doing when you last experienced a problem. Human memory is prone to error and change. Consider not only what a user says but also what they do.

Your hero’s journey

When seeking to understand your user, aim to understand their target end goals as well as the steps they take to reach them. Users experience a variety of pushes, pulls, and transformations along their journey. These interactions occur between users and the objects in their ecosystem.

Motivations and attitudes

Motivations are the reasons behind people’s actions. Why did they make that decision? What does your user hope to accomplish or learn? To what end?

Attitudes speak to the perspective a person has about something. For example, some people will spend hours combing through documentation files to find out how to solve a problem themselves. You could classify them as “DIY” individuals. You might also meet people that, rather than learn how to fix the problem themselves, ask a fellow coworker to solve the problem. This attitude of the “delegator” clearly differs greatly from the “DIY” attitude.

Locations and environment

People’s behaviors are greatly impacted by the context of their location–both physical and virtual. For example, you’re probably not the same person at work that you are in front of your parents or in front of your housemates. You may speak differently, act differently, or dress differently depending on these locations. The same goes for your users.

Similarly, a person’s environment affects their behavior and reactions. For instance, is your user’s location noisy and full of distractions? Is your user’s location ever-changing because they travel for work? Geographic location is another factor that may have a key impact on culture. Every user’s experience is shaped by the world around them. As your team continually defines your users, keep in mind external industry or technological influences that may affect user perception and attitudes.

Where do you come in?

Reflect together on how you can learn more deeply about your users.

The Explorer:

  • When can I observe our users?
  • What does my user’s environment look like?
  • What is my user’s end goal?
  • How can I help build empathy for the user?

The Guide:

  • How many user groups do we have?
  • How do they interact?
  • What other forces influence their behavior?
  • Who can join me in the research?