Who are the Users and Customers?

  • Survey:  The most straightforward way to find out who your users are, what they want, what they do, what they purchase, where they shop, and what they own is to survey them. Use internal and external contact lists to get a less biased view on your customers.
  • Persona|Market Segmentation: Turning survey data into meaningful clusters.  What functions do certain segments want, and when in the buying decision do they care the most?  Think beyond gender, income and age, and look to tasks and domain experience as key differentiators.
  • Competitive Analysis: Rarely does a product or website do something that NO ONE else does. Understand the market, find out what similar companies do in your market and look to similar industries. What features are common? What delights customers?  Use industry benchmarks like the Net Promoter Score for word-of-mouth and the System Usability Scale for usability.
  • Contextual Inquiry: Users can’t always articulate what they need or what they want. Through the process of observing users in their workplace or home attempting to solve problems and accomplish goals, look to identify unmet needs and understand the tasks they perform.
  • Stakeholder Interviews: An amazing amount of information already exists in different departments across companies. Don’t simply interview the HiPPO’s. Use a structured interview to ask customer support, QA, development, marketing and sales to find out what to build, what to fix, and what to cut.
  • Quality Function Deployment: Structure the ideas from internal stakeholders with data from users and customer into a matrix to understand what functions will meet the most internal and external requirements. Incorporate the competitive information to really impress your colleagues and make more informed decisions.

What are users trying to do?

  • Task Analysis: Decomposing what users are trying to accomplish to understand how the application makes tasks more efficient and effective. Seeing the Bible on Task Analysis: Contextual Design by Beyer and Holtzblatt.
  • Top Tasks Analysis: Your application can’t do everything for everyone all the time. Most people use applications (software or websites) for just a handful of tasks. Survey users and find out which “vital few” tasks satisfy the majority of the needs most of the time. Be sure the application does these tasks well. See Gerry McGovern’s book “The Stranger’s Long Neck.”