In the field of User Experience (UX) design, understanding and integrating user feedback is paramount. This insight is crucial during the discovery phase, where proximity to the issue can often lead to overlooked user needs.
What does this mean? It means that designers, product owners, product manager, and other team members are often too close to the project to see the bigger picture. They are too familiar with the product to identify its flaws and shortcomings.
You may also call this "expert blindness", which is the inability to see something in the eyes of a beginner (or non-expert). This is a common problem in many fields, and it's also a common problem in UX design.
Fictional real-life-problem example
There are many examples of this, but one common one is the following situation:
Please take into account that this is a fictional example, but it's based on real-life situations.
A user is trying to perform a task on a website or app, but they can't find the button or link to do it. This user calls support and asks for help, and supports does not understand the problem (because they explain where the button is and the user cannot find it) and ask the user to create a ticket and add a screenshot of the problem. Support then derives the ticket to the product owner (because, who knows a product better than the product owner, correct?) and the product owner cannot understand how no one can find the button, because it's right there, under the form, on the right side, with a red background and a white text that says "Submit".
You already saw the problem, right? The button is there, but it's not obvious to the user. In all the other systems the user uses, submit is with a green background and a white text, or something like that. The user is used to button with red background to mean "cancel" or "delete", and they are not used to a red button meaning "submit", so he probably didn't even see it or thought it was a "cancel" button and didn't click it.
This is a common problem, and it's a problem that can be solved with user feedback and research.
The importance of user feedback, not only in UX, but in any field, cannot be overstated. It helps us to understand the experience of users and their expectations, their needs, and their preferences. This insight is crucial in creating effective digital solutions (and also other kind of solutions).
We can divide user feedback into two phases:
- Discover Phase: User feedback helps identify real needs and preferences, which might be missed by designers and team members too close to the project. This should be done at the beginning of the project.
- Continual Improvement Phase: Regular feedback ensures that the UX design remains relevant and user-centric. This is a continuous process that should be done throughout the project and lifecycle of the product. It helps us identify problems and opportunities for improvement and helps us understand how users interact with the product after the initial phase. For example, you may be able to understand the differences in user behavior between heavy users and light users of your product, and you may be able to identify opportunities to improve the experience of both.
User Research Methods
User research methods come, in my experience, from regular research methods and share common characteristics with other kinds of research, such as market research.
Effective user research employs various techniques, such as:
- Focus Groups: Gathering diverse user perspectives by talking to a representative sample of our target users. Due to the costs and difficulty of coordinating such groups, we often decide on small groups that the team feels can provide appropriate feedback.
- Surveys and Questionnaires: Collecting quantifiable data on user preferences. This requires careful planning to ensure that the questions are clear and unbiased and that the data (answers) you collect is relevant to the project.
- Market Research: Understanding broader market trends and user behaviors. You need to correctly design a market research study to ensure that you get the data you need. (This is a topic for another article)
- Observation of Existing Solutions: Learning from current market offerings. I think of this as an exploratory analysis.
- Formal Lab Usability Studies: In-depth analysis of user interactions with the product.
It's crucial to approach user research without leading users to specific answers, ensuring unbiased and genuine insights, even if they are not what we expected and even if this means more work for us to process the data.
Free text answers are often the most valuable, but they are also the most difficult to process and less likely to be filled by users. This is why it's important to have a mix of different types of questions in your research. For free text answers you can use tools (if you have to many answers to process manually). I would recommend, if you can, to use Python, R or Julia and Natural Language Processing, Sentiment Analysis, and other techniques to process the data. (this is also a topic for another article).
Creating Personas, Marketing Personas or Target Audience Profiles
Creating personas belongs usually to the Discover Phase of the UX design process. Personas are fictional profiles of typical users, representing their needs, preferences, and behaviors. They help simplify the design process and also simplify the internal communication of the team.
A typical persona includes:
- Name: A name that represents the persona. (it's easier to remember a name than a number and gives the team the feeling that they are working for a real person)
- Photo: A photo of the persona. (it's easier to remember a face than a name)
- Needs: The needs of the persona. (what they need to do)
- Demographics: age, gender, household income, education/ occupation, location, etc. (this is not always relevant, but it's good to have it)
- Interests: hobbies, interests, etc.
- Behaviors: how they interact with the product, how often they use it, etc.
- Goals: what they want to achieve with the product. (some profiles use this and I find it important)
UX is complex and requires you to understand the user, its needs and expectations. Given the fact that most teams are experts in their products, user feedback and research become indispensable tools in the UX design process. They provide the foundation for understanding user needs and crafting experiences that resonate with them.
Emphasizing these aspects ensures that the final product is not only functional but also aligns with user expectations and preferences and allows your team to build a product that users will love (and therefor buy and recommend).
Recommended reading according to the course