Design is an inherently creative endeavor, relying on what some call an “eye” for it, a feel, maybe backed by a database of knowledge on what competitors are doing or current best practices, but more art than science all the same. Since it began, the business-minded have attempted to put real numbers to design impact in order to actually measure its importance. One such measurement tool that we find invaluable, which is actually relatively straightforward for anyone to accomplish, is User Research.
Simply put, user research is the process of talking to the people who use your product. In order to build an amazing brand, website, or system, it’s essential to really learn who your users are and what they need, what their tastes are, and how they behave. With this knowledge, you can optimize your product for the user, creating a better experience for them which in turn should create more business for yourself. In a formal User Experience setting, we go about this through a standard process:
- Present the user with a task that requires them to take action with your product. It could be to purchase a product, select their insurance carrier, or to customize their order. Whatever process you’re interested in optimizing.
- Ask the user to walk through the task. Have them explain to you both their actions and their reasoning as they go. This will uncover invaluable gems as you walk through the steps.
- Once completed, ask the user to summarize their experience. They might surprise you with their reactions in either a positive or negative way.
- Continue to interview users. Get as many as you can or as many as you find necessary.
- Once you have sufficient users, pick out the most common issues. Oftentimes, each user will have a unique problem and unique solutions to it. But, just as often, you’ll begin to find patterns where many users are having issues with the same step, screen, or phrase.
- These are your top-level issues to fix. You now have a list of all of the issues that were mentioned, and probably several you’ve noticed yourself. Order them by priority, beginning with either the most commonly addressed or issues that catastrophically halt the process in question.
Congratulations, you’ve now completed a simple user research session. So far, we’ve taken a very systems and UX approach. But, psychology is crucial to branding, marketing, physical and digital products; it should be a foundational component of almost any company. For example, your choice of colors for your brand or website can have a huge impact on your user’s perception of what your purpose or values are. Study after study show that users trust and are attracted to brands and products that elicit positive emotions. This could be used to decide what a positive color looks like to your user, what a positive message sounds like, how it’s presented, and how it helps your user to perceive your company in that positive light.
Finally, a fun anecdote about choice. Choice paralysis has been the killer of many a giant. It is the cognitive affect of overloading the user with so many options that they shut down and decide that the process isn’t worth the goal. It’s the reason why Apple so many years ago decided to produce one iPhone, which now has increased to 3 memory sizes and a handful of colors, but the idea remains the same. There aren’t 300 options, the user is presented with very few choices, and their choices are presented as hand-selected by the experts.
Ultimately, entire college courses have been written on the subject of user psychology, and I’ve only presented a limited number of examples in order to help you keep it a bit more top of mind in your business journey. I hope you can find yourself one day speaking with your users and helping to make their relationship with your brand an extraordinary experience. And if you ever need a little help, you know who to reach out to.