How to understand the people

The Inspiration phase is one of the most important parts of the design thinking process as it lays a big foundation for future project ideation. Basically, the inspiration process is about structuring the problem and its scope, getting information from customers and their pains, and then synthesizing and interpreting the data for actionable steps in the Ideation phase.

“Walk with me for a while, my friend—you in my shoes, I in yours—and then let us talk.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

Therefore, Human-centered design gives designers a chance to design alongside communities, to deeply understand the people they are looking to serve, and to create innovative solutions rooted in people’s actual needs.

Do you understand the problem from your users perspective?
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In order to understand the people and get feedback from them concerning a particular product or service you deliver to them through Human-Centred Design, here are few things to keep in mind.

Formulating the problem and its scope 

Define the identified problem and its scope so as to make the users understand what you are trying to address and how their views and opinions fit into creating a potential solution. To achieve this you can use a variety of methods that’ll help you organize and analyze your user inputs and feedback. Some of these are;

User Interviews/Surveys

Human-Centred Design is about getting to know the people you are designing a particular product for and knowing from them what works, what does not, what can be improved, and also just to hear what they have to say.

Conducting interviews or sending out surveys to users helps you to learn so much about their mindsets, behaviors, and what they need by talking with them.

User personas

One of the other ways of putting the customer at the center of the design is developing personas. Personas represent the attitudes, behaviors, and motivations of customers. Personas shed a light on how customers think and why they do or think the way they do. There are various forms of customer research that will help inform but also complement, user personas [1]. These include journey maps, interviews, surveys, analytics, etc. The list goes on and on. The information gathered about the customer can be used both qualitative and quantitative to create a cohesion of understanding before looking to solve for a need.


I’m user A and this is my example profile for this case study.

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Personas are representative of many customers and they group profiles together of customers who share similar needs, wants, and behaviors. While one persona group might have certain needs, or illustrate certain behaviors, it is essential to remember that some of these things may overlap across personas. When developing personas, customer research and analytics can be utilized to understand what is important to a certain persona.

NB. Before making design decisions it is important to keep those personas at the center of the design process.

User Stories

User stories are a key pillar in keeping track of different aspects of the program to ensure all the requirements of the user are met, especially when using HCD in the design process.

During the inspiration gathering stage, most product developers using the following three steps in capturing user stories:

  1. Use of a card – This is a shorthand draft of the insights from the user. It doesn’t bear a great level of detail, just short notes.
  2. Conversation with the user – This is a more detailed process as it involves speaking one on one with the user to understand what they want and why they want it that way.
  3. Confirmation of the drafted insights – Once the information is documented on the cards and had a conversation with the users, then it’s important to confirm if what you documented is really what they said and meant.

To further guide you in this process, please note that it is important to ensure that the user stories collected are independent, negotiable, valuable, estimable, small, and testable.

“Nothing sticks in your head better than a story. Stories can express the most complicated ideas in the most digestible ways.”

 Sam Balter, Sr. Marketing Manager of Podcasts, HubSpot

Remember that user insights are the backbone of HCD, therefore this stage is just as important as providing the solution.

Journey maps

A customer journey map is a visual representation of the process a customer or prospect goes through to achieve a goal with your company. With the help of a customer journey map, you can get a sense of your customers’ motivations — their needs and pain points [4]. The HCD approach attributes its success to involving human perspectives in all steps of the design process. As designers, it’s our job to ensure the products or services we design enable the user to achieve the goal as efficiently as possible.

It is, however, difficult to create a product or service whose implementation satisfies all our user’s engagement methods. It is therefore imperative that we adopt a process that enables us to examine how our users interact with our products and services. It’s this analysis that helps us create a better product that has a much higher success rate and customer satisfaction. Other benefits of customer journey maps include but are not limited to the following :

  1. Helps you implement proactive customer service – This tool enables you to view your customer’s experiences from their perspective, with this information it is, therefore, easier to identify the challenges they’re facing and what works best for them. You can therefore help whenever the need arises.
  2. Helps improve your customer retention rate – Everyone appreciates a well designed and implemented product, there is a higher chance of new users staying if your product or service solves their problem efficiently.
  3. It’s a great way to build a user-focused mentality in your company – Your users are a very important part of your business, creating your products around their needs is therefore imperative and the main pillar of HCD.

It is also important to note that a customer journey map must include the emotions of your customers in regards to their interactions with your product or service. All your customers’ decisions are informed by the emotions and these emotions change depending on the stage they are on the user journey map.


Customer analytics is a process of collecting and analyzing customer data to learn customer behavior and preferences for making timely and strategic decisions as well as forming personalized recommendations[2]. It is important to note and keep track of the business progress to improve the services and impact made to the customers.

Mainly, companies tend to do customer analytics to help them break down complex challenges they experience into manageable solutions and understand complaints raised by customers. This helps companies make better decisions on improving their goals. Also, by having a more in-depth perspective on the user’s behavior, one can tell what’s working and what’s veering away from the track. Useful customer analytics can help increase[2]:

  • Customer retention
  • Mobile adoption
  • User engagement
  • In-app purchases.

An essential aspect of customer analytics is the step-by-step process of collecting user data on how the user interacts with the platform. This exposes significant trends such as how users discover their product, which features they like best, where they find value, and what causes them to leave. Besides, the human-centered design comes in handy with customer analytics as you can get more understanding of the user interaction when building empathy with the users.

“Don’t push people to where you want to be; meet them where they are.” 

Meghan Keaney Anderson, VP Marketing, HubSpot

It is vital to implement customer analysis on user platforms to help improve user interaction and know where to make changes for the betterment of the business goals

The END, Thank you.

This blog was researched and written by the combined efforts of:

  • Ian Odhiambo
  • William Peter
  • Edwin Mariwa
  • Enock Kamau
  • Magura Caesar


[1]  A. Salerno, “Using customer personas to drive human-centered design,” West Monroe. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 11-Oct-2020].

[2]2020. [Online]. Available:,insights%20into%20their%20users’%20behaviors. [Accessed: 13- Oct- 2020].

[3] Aaron B, “How to better understand people you’re designing innovation for” 30 April 2015 .  [Online].    Available:  [accessed: 10-Oct-2020]

[4] A. Agius, “Redirecting”,, 2020. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 13- Oct- 2020].

[5] D. Kumana, “How User-Centered Design Can Put User Stories in Proper Context,” ThoughtWorks, 02-Mar-2013. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 13-Oct-2020]. 

12 thoughts on “How to understand the people

  1. Nice work you have done here, it really explains who you can understand people and build your solution from there.

  2. Very engaging blog, well done people:-)
    So from the user stories, is it necessary to use all of the Use of a card, conversation with the users, and Confirmation of the drafted insights? If yes why, if no why and which one works best than the others in most use case?

    1. Hi Fulgence, thanks for appreciating.
      Well for the question, I wouldn’t say yes or no because it may depend on the researcher, use of the card, and confirmation of the drafted insights may not matter as long as you can ensure that the information your getting from the users, you are well acquaint and know exactly what you want hear.
      To me I would suggest that conversation with the users is the best, because this so in-depth, you get to hear directly from the users however, you can decide to use all.

  3. I enjoyed the read, great job. Would have loved to see more examples or rather situations where we can use each of the described tools to understand users. Like when it is appropriate to use a journey map instead of a user persona, or when to use both etc.

    1. Hello Nathan.
      Please visit the links provided in the references section, you’ll find there more information and use cases listed.

      Thank you.

  4. This is really good content! But is there a process that could take less time in understanding the user? Suppose I am trying to come up with a solution and I really have a very limited time, would consider recommending a process that one may use to still achieve the understanding of the users

    1. Hello Alliance,
      The inspiration phase is very important and the core part of this process is the attention and detail put into understanding the problem. While there could be multiple shortcuts in the process like only involving a small number of respondents in your data collection and overlooking the data analysis stage, the consequences could be damaging to the solution. It’s better you take your time and create a solution that will serve a purpose and last for a lifetime. Feel free to explore other resources on this issue.

      Thank you.

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