A mile in your shoes


Understanding the problem to solve and the impact of user research

The humans that use and rely on a system are the primary source of information regarding its design. Period.

If people are not able to perform their desired tasks efficiently, it doesn’t matter that you executed best practice in writing, testing and debugging code, that your modelling technique would put Michelangelo to shame, how kewl [sic] your user interface looks or how seamless its interactions, you are submitting to inevitable product failure.

Systems for humans need to enable the user to achieve their goal(s) in the best possible way. To do that, you must get to know the end-users. To facilitate that, you need to get to grips with design thinking. To empower yourself to build the right thing, unbuckle your biases, lay your assumptions down, and add realistic contexts and insights through user research.

In short, listen to the people.

User Experience Design is data-driven

Careful and thorough user research provides a rich source of data that, with specialised and robust synthesis and analysis, confers advantage in usefulness, usability, and pleasure to the user of the system. User research uncovers the tipping point of needfulness. Of the sweet nectar of attraction and the retaining factor of comfortable usage. These are critical insights for informing the system architecture and development so it may bear both irresistible fruit and become an indispensable tool.

As an essential ingredient in product strategy, user research enables valuable, efficient, learnable interaction experiences. Looking deeply into how people think and act you can discover and analyse users’ behaviour, needs, and motivations. These insights contribute to context and identifying product requirements, and are non-negotiable in creating an optimal product for users.

A project team’s effort will be worth naught if you create a “solution” based on assumptions

The guiding principles of user research are to eliminate unwarranted bias, to identify problems and establish the facts you need to design with, and facilitate the transition of a new product or technology into the mainstream and/or within an organisation. User-experience designing also deciphers aesthetic fidelity, forging evidence-based relationships between the looks and use-case.

As UX designers often create for people unlike themselves, empathy, the ability to recognise and share our user’s mental states, is the linchpin of human-centered design. The ability to cognise and enter into someone else’s frame of mind is how we transcend disparity between the project team and end-user. This is achieved by connecting with the user through a variety of investigative activities including interviews, observation, and role play.

We want to understand our users’ motivations and deterrents, the influences on their decision making, along with their priorities and competing tasks. Then by framing the user within a contextually relevant story we are able to find commonality along different journeys and task intentions, across a divergent scope of stakeholders, users, and consumers. Insights from user research inform and give credence to the decisions we make along the entire development cycle, and every iteration of it. Ultimately, illustrating how the divergent wants and needs of our users meet, and where viability and impact converge for the optimal product.

When we discover all facets of a system’s experience in the mindset of the primary users, we inherently create distinction

In fully understanding our end-users, we mesh human interactivity with organisational structure and end-goals to build solutions to assimilate. Understanding the user experience is an essential starting point for any project because it identifies not only the who, but the what, when, where, how and why. Only then can we address gaps and develop a solution – digital or otherwise – that considers the people that will use and rely on it.

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