Our UX Designers have seen costly mistakes in client projects that didn’t engage in user experience profiles ahead of time, and we’ve seen great successes in projects that utilized user data in the design.
We always begin with this fact: no matter what you do, the user experience is always there. It isn’t something you can add. You can enhance it or make it worse, but it’s always there. That means even the most basic of user interfaces are still an experience – including the bad ones.
Look at it this way: do you really want the fate of your software, not to mention your investment, to hang on a poor user experience?
Understanding who your users are is vital
A common assumption is that sitting down with users takes too much time and money. But the reality is, the potential losses of building software without understanding your user are huge. Having that user insight will afford you a clearer vision of how to expand and grow your business, or how to pivot and reinvent your solutions. Listening to users is more about watching how they use things and how they feel when they do. The end result is you understand what your users are doing, and can adjust your design accordingly.
Sometimes, when we ask users how they feel or what is happening while they’re using an app, I discover problems that we would never have known about. Typically, we work with a representative amount of users and watch them interact with the system over a period of time. What they do with the interface and what they say gives us a lot of information.
User scenarios and profiles
One of the things our team does in our approach to user studies is to create user scenarios and profiles. These valuable tools benefit the entire team by providing a shared vision for the app’s goal for developers and designers alike
First, we ask the client questions. Then we validate the answers with the users. Our questions range from general concept to specific, such as, “What’s the objective or goal of the task you’re doing?” Even the user’s age will factor into our observations.
Once we begin to understand the user’s profile, we begin to get an idea of the situation and any problems that will need to be solved.
User profiles are characters, like a student, a parent, or an accountant; any typical user who might use the software. But the profile isn’t just a job title or life role; it’s also a detailed description of what that person does and how he or she interacts with the world. What does that user do on a given day, and how do they do it? The profile includes work routines and backgrounds, which will then inform how the user does things.
Putting the user profile in a scenario where they interact with the software is next. Knowing your users and how they behave allows you to prioritize what’s essential in the app and what’s secondary or complementary, which in turn allows you to make decisions on what’s included in the scope. And that’s essential when your budget and time to market is limited.
Better late than never
While it’s ideal to start a project with user studies in place, there is no bad time to start, even in advanced development stages. You might be wondering what the value is in getting user input when the product is halfway out the door, but having user insight will give you a clearer vision of how to expand and grow your business, or how to pivot and reinvent your solutions.
The way we see it, UX doesn’t end when you launch your product. Continuing to understand users and their needs validates your product in the market and provides you with tools to discover what else you can offer to users.