User Research @meebo circa 2011

3 reasons why understanding user behavior is my main design tool

Observing & listening to users is still not done nearly enough by designers. Many products are created, designed, built and released into the wild without user input. To me that is a disservice to the people that use those products.

Below you can see why understanding true user behavior is the central aspect of my design process.

1. Breaking the “illusion of understanding”

““I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” — Ernest Hemingway

Talking to users certainly keeps me humble. One of the biggest pitfalls when I make design assumptions without listening to users is the “illusion” that I know better than the user. Many times I am right, my intuition is correct and I get it right. But very often I am not. I have been proven wrong before by users who did not understand an interaction,button, label, icon or information hierarchy. Other designers have too. In other words: sometimes designers are overconfident. User research allows me to listen to users, check my assumptions make sure I am being true to the user, and not to my illusion of understanding.

2. More Eureka moments

“Great ideas…come into the world as gently as doves…if we listen attentively, we shall hear, amid the uproar…a faint flutter of wings, the gentle stirring of life and hope.” — Albert Camus

Understanding user behavior through quantitative and qualitative methods allows me to imagine things in a different way. Understanding how someone experiences something, viewing things from their perspective allows me to improvise, re-invent things. Whether it is improvising a question because of how the conversation is going, or switching the order of a flow on a paper prototype, or having the user taking the lead in mocking or brainstorming ideas,one thing I know to be true: I have had many, many “eureka” moments when I am seeking to understand users.

3. More compassion = more people centered design

“The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them.” ― Ralph G. Nichols

Users are different from each other, and certainly different than me. The world is filled with people, real people, with emotions and fears and concerns, not simply potential clients to your new app or website. Understanding real behavior ensures I have my thinking, and consequently my design solutions centered on the people I am serving.



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