Understanding customers

Sep 30, 2023

Product design may not be rocket science, but sometimes it feels like brain surgery, especially when it comes to understanding user needs and perspectives. We've all been there, staring at the drawing board, scratching our heads, wondering what our users want. Is it more features? Sleeker design? A personal butler named Jeeves? If only our users would tell us directly!

Empathy in design

They say to design with your user in mind, but how many of us really understand what that means? It is about slipping into their shoes and understanding their world, needs, and goals. And no, this doesn't mean stalking your customers online to see what they had for breakfast (although avocado toast—a solid choice). 

You might think, "Why not just ask the users what they want?" Well, it's not always what they say. It's what they do that matters. It's like your friend who swears they'll start going to the gym on Monday, but when Monday comes around, they're more likely to be found in a Netflix marathon than a sprinting one. The point is, when it comes to understanding user needs, the right questions are your best friend. 

Techniques to better understand people

Understanding users is not about psychic abilities, although that would be cool. It's about using proven techniques to delve into their minds (in a non-creepy way). Before we dive into these tools, let's recognize that they form the backbone of modern UX design. Employing these methods can make the difference between guessing what users want and truly understanding their needs.

User Interviews:

Conducting user interviews is like hosting a casual chat; only you're gently steering the conversation toward revelation. Remember, the aim here isn't to grill them about the specifics of your product but to understand their world. Here are some effective questions you can ask:

  • What task were you trying to accomplish when you ran into this problem?

  • Can you walk me through how you currently perform this task?

  • What's the hardest part about achieving your goal in this context?

  • What have you done to try to solve this problem before?

Surveys and questionnaires:

Surveys are the bread and butter of user research, but like any diet, it's all about how you prepare them. Instead of asking leading questions like "You love our product, right?" (wink, wink), try these:

  • What are the top three tasks you use our product for?

  • What would it be if you could change just one thing about our product?

  • How often do you use our product in a typical week?

  • What alternatives did you consider before choosing our product?

Jobs-to-be-Done Framework:

Stepping away from personas, let's dive into the Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) framework. The idea is to focus less on the user's identity (i.e., a busy mom, a tech newbie) and more on the "job" they "hire" your product to do. Here's how you can apply it:

  • Identify the core job: What fundamental problem is the user trying to solve?

  • Define the job steps: What's the process the user undergoes to solve the problem?

  • Spot the pain points: Where does the process break down or frustrate the user?

  • Unearth the job's importance and satisfaction: How critical is this job to your user, and how happy are they with their current solutions?

Usability testing: 

This is where your users take the wheel, and you brace for impact. Just remember, even a crash is valuable data. Usability tests are the microscope of user research, giving you an up-close and detailed view of user interactions. Instead of just observing and noting "User struggled here," aim to dive deeper with tactics like these:

  • Present a task without specific instruction, e.g., "Complete a purchase," and watch their process.

  • After they finish a task, ask, "What was your thought process when you reached this step?"

  • Interrupt their task momentarily and inquire, "What do you expect to happen next?"

  • At the end of the session, ask them to rank the ease of each task they performed.

Analytics and heatmaps: 

These are like X-rays of user research, unveiling what's beneath the surface of user interactions. Utilizing analytics with direct user feedback can transform raw data into actionable insights. Instead of merely gleaning numbers like "500 clicks here," delve into the qualitative side with strategies such as:

  1. Where do users most often click on a page, and why? 

  2. What paths do they typically take through the site?

  3. How do users' behaviors change over time on your platform?

So there you have it. Understanding user needs isn't about being a mind reader but involves some detective work. So go on, unleash your inner Sherlock, and remember – it's not just about the toast, it's about the avocado!