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Mindset “I am the user” – Part 1

3.3.2020 | 7 minutes of reading time

Imagine searching the web and using a website. Entering some data and suddenly you have a hard time finding the submit button. Or you fill out a form and press the “submit” or “next” button, an error is thrown back, but you can’t figure out the error immediately? Plus, you do not fully understand the required next steps? I have experienced those website behaviors multiple times already. For this reason, I’d like to take a moment to raise awareness for every single user struggling to use some websites as well as companies who are experiencing a decreasing conversion rate.

Whenever I stumble across a rather bad user experience, a voice in my head keeps asking “Did no one test this user flow?” Maybe the features have been functionally tested, but for sure not the whole flow from a user’s perspective.

From a company’s point of view, plenty more reasons could be an indicator here: not enough time or budget, poor time management, a wrong investment decision to cut off the product manager or other wrong investment decisions for the product itself. There’s no limit in finding reasons why a piece of software has its current status – or are those company reasons only excuses? Excuses for not knowing their own user groups and their desires?

Users are the heart of a product.

This is a little blog post about addressing the understanding of user needs. Only companies that have understood who their users are and, most importantly, the circumstances coupled with reasons which lead the user to use the product or service, will be successful in the long run. Without users, the existence of a product is in question.

Actually, every designer, developer and product manager should take ownership of the “why” behind writing any piece of code or designing any new feature. “Why are we implementing the new feature?”, “What is our target based on evaluated user feedback?”, “Will the user understand it?”, “How will the user use it?”, “What can we do to fix a pain point for the user?” or “Which user need is our target for the next release?”. Evaluating and defining those user needs at front will help the team to make sure it is building a product or features that will help the user solve an existing problem.

Changing perspective every now and then will definitely allow yourself and the team a deeper understanding of reasons behind user actions. Adjusting your own mindset and trying to BE the user you are talking to. BE the user the website or product is designed for and eliminate stumble stones to create the best possible user experience. Sophisticated user experiences will be the door opener for raising user acceptance, creating a better product and at the end a higher conversion rate.

As I started writing down my thoughts, I quickly realized that this topic can be covered very fast, but it is much more fun to dive a little deeper into it. That’s why I am happy to split different topics into four blog posts. Please leave your feedback in the comments section below. Maybe even an use case that you are currently working on and for which you’d like to get some ideas for possible solutions.

Blog Overview

This first part will cover some fundamentals and the WHY: “Why do I need to understand the user?”

  • An introduction (you are here)
  • Mindset: your point of view matters. Consider changing it.

The second part is about the basics. Is it possible and recommended to categorize your product?

  • Is my product a vitamin or painkiller?
  • Habit vs nice-to-have
  • Some basic knowledge

The third part will cover the HOW: “How can I approach the user?”

  • First steps to find out where you are
  • Creating roots when creating personas
  • How to trigger the user to use the product
  • How to emotionally reward the user
  • How to focus on user attention

The fourth part will cover the WHAT: “What am I going to do?”

  • Should I consider all feature requests?
  • Should I plan product budget on marketing?
  • The importance of testing

To be able to build products that people not only like, but are passionate about, you need to know the user better than your best friend, spouse, parents. You need to understand their behavior, their thoughts and which personal impact the software has on them when using it. The more you are connected to their journey, the more the user feels connected to the product. Understanding the user is quite a journey of its own. Every product owner has to work hard to understand precisely who is using the product, which experiences they have and most importantly: why this one user is using your product.

Change your point of view.

Stop guessing what the user wants, start to understand what the user needs and thinks.
Many blog posts and articles refer to specific user testing to figure out users’ motivation and what works best. Amongst other, I recommend these articles for a quick read:

Throwing my two cents in:
I am familiar with daily struggles. Missing time or a lack of adopting responsibilities within companies and teams are just one of many reasons to explain the difficulty of adopting an open mindset. I have seen different levels of interpretations in various companies I have worked with in my career.

In several teams, we have been going through many attempts to find the ideal approach and I am happy to share some team experiences. In principle, the following statement can be made: Even though, in the best case, the entire team works together in an interdisciplinary approach and meets with users to obtain feedback on prepared open questions, at least one person in the team, regardless of their position, must be in contact with the user or user group of the product or service. Ideally on a regular basis, whereby it behooves to the team to define the ideal cycle. Out of my experience, mostly reasons for companies to avoid a vast process of user feedback interactions can be identified as a limit in budget, time, knowledge and, indeed, not the right mindset.

If you have realized you actually do not know the user, what is a good and fast way to get a feeling for your user group?

Ideally some kind of empathy maps will create a big support along the whole process. I’ll provide more details for this type of map within the next blog posts. If you are at the very beginning and a general feeling for the user group(s) needs to be created: a good start is the comment or review section. Reading comments (e.g. on any social media platform about your product advertisement, sharings, recommendation, you name it…) as active user feedback and actively getting in touch with people, is a pretty efficient way to really get to know your user group(s) instead of assuming one’s character.

Stop anticipating, start acting and asking the right questions!

It doesn’t matter if the questions are prepared and taken out of the drawer whenever needed, or you just know your struggles and shoot right away, whenever needed.

Now, how to efficiently use an open mindset? Collect as much real feedback as the possibilities allow, e.g.

  • by learning from the customer service department (if available for your product)
  • by learning from the sales or marketing department (if available for your product)
  • by creating an empathy map
  • by showing raw designs to a specific user group and allow evaluations right at the beginning
  • by inviting several users to sit down in the comfortable surroundings of your office, have a coffee together while talking about the product and observe the customer browse through your product. If you are short in staff, eye tracking might be an option for you.
  • or even by visiting users at their home and understanding their environment and consequential motivations

The starting point is the only time where changes can easily be made and the investment costs are still low. This allows you and the team to not only create a product, but also to create a product that is easily accepted by the user group.

Part two will be published on Thursday, 5th of March 2020.

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