I absolutely believe that putting your users in the centre is essential to delivering the best possible experience. Building products relying only on your assumptions significantly increases the risks of launching something that users won’t understand (if they even need it). The least of all the problems you can face because of such approach is increased support costs. When your users can’t find what they are looking for or can’t figure out how to use your product, they will start complaining and bombarding your customer support team. The worst – losing customers and brand damage. No company wants that.
That is why I always strongly advocate for involving your users as early as possible and as much as you can. It’s all about risk reduction and saving money and time. Do you really want to spend months (or years) working on a product or feature to launch it and then realize that you failed the real user test? How much money will it take to rebuild it the proper way?
1. Business needs
Get internal agreement on what the company goals are how they are prioritized. Why should this product exist? What user segments are we targeting? What’s the competitor landscape? What is the unique value proposition? What are the constraints to consider (technical, time, funding, legislation, brand guidelines, etc.)? What KPI do we define to measure success?
2. User needs
Understand the target audience, their challenges, and how we can help them achieve their goals. What keeps them up at night? What are their motivations? What is the environment they will be using the product in? What’s their story?
Taking all the qualitative and quantitative user research data, identify patterns and morph them into several personas that reflect each user group for whom we are designing. Write scenarios describing a typical day of their lives and how the website or app fits into their lives.
Sketch several different flow and design options trying to strike a balance between user and business needs. How do we empower our target users to accomplish what they need in the most effective, efficient, and delightful manner keeping the business objectives in mind? Review the concepts with the colleagues and stakeholders to get their feedback and agree on the overall direction.
Depending on the product and existing constraints, use paper or digital tools to create something that can be tested with real users. The goal is to get their feedback and validate assumptions as early as possible.
Quickly test the prototype with internal stakeholders to get agreement on the proposed solution. Then, meet with several representatives from the target audience to conduct formative research to inform and optimize the design of your product.
Taking received feedback into consideration, refine the prototype and test again. And again. And again. Until all the hypotheses are validated, and flow and design are aligned with the target users’ mental model.
Create final wireframes, high-fidelity mockups, and UI specifications for the development team to work with.
9. Measuring & Learning
Did we achieve our objectives? Analyze the usage results to see if the business goals have been achieved and if any improvements need to be made to the user experience.