"I mean, if Henry Ford canvassed people on whether or not he should build a motor car, they'd probably tell him what they really wanted was a faster horse. But designers do have to be more adept at knowing what target markets want."
- 1999's Cruise Industry News Quarterly
Good designers are aware of the importance customers play in our success. We strive to include users in early phases, designing feedback loops that work for our teams and businesses. Results-based design thinking is essential as we lead businesses into the future.
We think we know what our users want when we research. We have functions dedicated to customer success, and (should be) testing before we even launch. Teams are growing with a variety of roles, which all feed a holistic design process. Tools are launching every day to test ideas in the wild, and to build services and products that have never existed. We are able to test and iterate to create a higher quality product in an extremely short amount of time.
But, what do we actually test?
I would argue that designers of technology products are more user-centric than ever. But an equally important quality is the ability to distill what users want from their feedback. There is a big difference between what the user thinks they want and what would actually solve their problems. This is where listening (analyzing feedback) matches up with that almighty buzzword, “innovation” (critical thinking).
For example: In the case where a user tells you they want to control all options available in their profile settings, they would likely be overwhelmed if all of those options were actually laid out at once. Taking this feedback literally is not necessarily a success, even if it matches exactly what the user said they wanted. We need to take a step back and use critical thinking. This is where experience, more research and getting away from the screen to call up common sense comes in. There is fine line between user control and overwhelming cognitive load. In this scenario, we should be testing some design choices on grouping options, pre-filling options based on user history, and utilizing resources to assist the user in being able to have control while cutting down on cognitive load.
Another example is a user suggesting to change the UA in an alert pop-up. This user may think that if they understood what happened more clearly, their experience would be more positive. But if we step back and distill their comments into a problem to solve, we might find that it would be most effective to remove the alert altogether. The next step would be to figure out ways to accomplish that.
It is essential we get to the root of problems before deciding how to solve them.
Some considerations to make when discovering deeper connections are:
- Asking questions that uncover problems, and steer away from discussing possible solutions.
- Finding out what the user is trying to accomplish; This again, may not be as straightforward as just asking. We need to figure it out with a series of coordinated methods.
- How does this task or application fit into their life? Understand the big picture.
- Don’t immediately think of problems from a UI standpoint.
- Find out how they “get around” problems now, even if they don’t realize they are doing so.
- Find out if/how competitors try to solve the problem.
- Use critical thinking and start with understanding familiar mental patterns.
One final note
When providing feedback mechanisms, don’t just use them to improve your product and services. Make sure users know they are being heard even if their idea doesn’t make it into the product exactly as they suggested it. Close the loop, and design a holistic customer experience as a result.