Make Your Design Solutions Work with Users
You can observe a lot just by watching — Yogi Berra.
Observe not assume
Observing people is an art but by observing we tend to learn their behaviors, routines, tasks, goals and their environment. The question arises why you need users to be observed? We all are born intelligent and have even developed a good intellect to comprehend humans and their behaviors. Observing users help us to come up with design solutions and uncovers various user needs, breakdowns, pains and opportunities for improving their daily life. This is how entrepreneurs go about finding new opportunities and business ideas. So as a user experience designer how should this help us?
Start by doing these simple things:
Go to the users actual environment, observe people performing a particular task there. Take notes, Video Record, Take Pictures to document the activity. (prior consent is required)
Watch and listen as users work in the own environment, as opposed to an artificial environment (a lab or any other formal testing space). These interviews can be more natural and realistic and also less formal since they don’t require any script and tasks to be tested. We need to know the user’s work patterns and their overall environment.
Plan to interview with one user at a time for 30 minutes to an hour. A lot of planning is required so that you may probe on their attitudes, desires, and experiences to get a deeper understanding of the users who use your product.
These interviews ideally take place at the start of the project to get the streamlined goals and user needs. Focus on What you want to learn? Probe the user as follow-up and be a good listener
Record the sessions and team up with one or more note takers
Brainstorming not brainwash
After observing and initial user research you should now be having a lot of data, prioritize and brainstorm a list of specific user needs; think of different features that would help your users. Brainstorm as a team, always remember more people more ideas gives you the success. Keep your focus on addressing the user needs and goals and don’t take a deep dive into solutions.
Do not reinvent the wheel, draw inspirations from existing applications, artifacts, products or services that relate to specific user need.
My own take
In couple of projects I got the opportunity to do user research and record their needs, goals & pain areas to be addressed in my solutions. The projects were challenging as the users of the system were used to working on a legacy mainframe system. This meant they were used to an environment where they felt they are doing a good job even if the system was designed badly but this took them a lot of time to learn and know the system very well. After doing the contextual inquiry with the users we found out that the users were using multiple screens, their tasks revolved around those screens and their present pain areas were quiet different from what the stakeholders were trying to answer. On the another project after doing couple of usability tests on the present and redesigned system I was able to give a qualitative research in the form of usability report that indicated that how well all the users able to complete their tasks with 100% success with the newly designed system.
Finally, all I want to say is know your users well enough in advance to make your system loved by the users.