You must know your customer before you can sell to them. Customers use products in different ways, have different problems to solve, and work in different environments. You need to have a 360 degree view of the user, putting yourself in his or her shoes, to understand their mindset, unique problems, and operating process. We call this the “User Experience” (UX). User experience is real insight from empathy and data; it is a critical way to differentiate from competitors. “User Experience” helps you create the “Product Experience” – how to differentiate your product to win and delight the user.
Key questions to understanding the user include:
1. What is The User Perspective?
2. What are the Personas & User Scenarios?
3. What’s the real need/opportunity?
4. How do/might they actually behave?
5. What motivates them?
6. What’s their environment?
Basically,, you are trying to learn the "Who, What, Where, When, and How" someone uses a product.
Your research will help you create User-centric models. User-centric models represent your users, the things they do related to your products, the things they need to accomplish with your products, and their relationship with your products.
User-centric models help your product teams:
1. Focus on the user at all times (not on the product)
2. Provide a common understanding of who the user is and what is important to them
3. Illuminate how your product will interact with the user
4. Minimize subjective debates about what features are important to users
If you have an (or more than one) easy-to-understand model that represents your user, based on research, you will be more efficient and effective in making design decisions. Two user-centric models are: Personas and Experience Maps.
Personas represent your end users. Each persona has tasks, behaviors, and motivations that your users perform that help your team make the best possible design decisions. They put your design team in the shoes of real people using their products. For example, one persona for a camera product may be a “Fighter Pilot” – A professional who knows photography and likes to play around with lens, lighting, wants total flexibility in configuration, likes connecting to other software for editing, output. A different user persona would be the “PHD” (Push Here, Dummy) – A weekend user who just wants to take family photos, does not want to fool around with settings, wants things to be as automatic as possible.
Process / Experience Maps
Process or Experience maps show how users interact with your products – you see the phases in their workflow, interactions with other people or processes (who the product “touches”), the pain points, bottlenecks, opportunities, etc. Process maps provide a high level, strategic look at how your products fit into the user’s lives and help you understand the broader context where your product is situated. No two maps typically follow the same format or layout, but they often contain a few key components: phases in the journey, touch points, pain points, and opportunities.
How to Create User Personas and Process / Experience Maps
Observing users in their environment is one of the best methods for learning the various User Personas and creating their unique Process / Experience Maps. Some called these “VOC” (Voice of the Customer), OE (Opportunity Evaluation), etc. Create a list of questions for the various users. Ask open ended and closed probing questions, e.g. If there was one thing that we could eliminate in this process, what would it be? What keeps you up at night? Who is the actual end user…an internal or external customer? Many recommend having 3 people for such visits: an interviewer, a “wing man” to observe and jump in when the interviewer gets lost or misses an important follow-up, and a scribe who usually frantically writes down everything he/she hears. (There’s a whole procedure for “Voice of the Customer” which we will discuss in the future.) Create the user experience map with your users to see if they agree with the interaction and flow.
Training customers in their environment is an other excellent method - you'll see the daily interactions, disruptions, and what they actually do versus what they say they do (not necessary the same). Involve your Sales and Service staff to help develop and refine your models.
Segmentation - Different Strokes for Different Folks
Don’t forget to apply segmentation in each of these exercises. Segmentation may be based on user attributes (gender, income, age group, market segments, regions, etc.). 18 year olds don’t necessary behave the same as 30 year olds so you want to create user personas and process/experience maps for these distinct groups. You may further “slice and dice” the segments further, e.g. 18 year old girls vs. boys, to get better understanding of the target user.
Product teams often get narrowly focused on a particular product, or feature set within a product, and lose sight of the complete user experience. User personas and process / experience maps help teams keep their eye on the big picture and generate new, innovative ideas to help make the experience better.
A very entertaining introduction and summary of UX Design is embedded below: