Human centered design was born with the aim of designing solutions that are human focused. To find the best solution when innovation is a big task and time taking as one have to fully empathize with the people. In HCD, one places the people he is trying to serve and other important stakeholders at the center of the design and implementation process. The focus is on understanding the dynamics between stakeholders and the system. These people are not abstract “users”, they are real human beings who will use your product to accomplish their goals. So how do we understand the people we are trying to serve?
Techniques and steps to understand the people
Include the Right People in the Process
It is critical to choose whom to include before understanding the people. Users differ depending on what the designer wants to achieve or innovate. To choose the right people to start by defining the criteria of the participant. In many cases, a user persona will be more effective in mapping all the criteria of the people you want to serve, thus deciding on the right participants. Groups to consider including in user research are people who:
- Currently, use a similar service.
- Do not currently use a similar service but may need it in the future
- Have problems using a similar service
- Work in the service / help others use the service
Direct Engagement with People Who use the Product
To understand the people you are designing for, you need to engage with them, talk to them, and give them a room to talk to you. To engage with the people, these steps are crucial as they somehow allow you to feel what they feel using the product.
Observation: To observe the people you are trying to help, you need to put them in their natural context and observe their context of use. Context of use can be defined as how systems are employed in the real world. Observation helps to understand how people do things, how they solve the problem you identified and their ongoing behavior in a realistic situation. Using interviews or surveys, participants or the people may tend not to say the whole truth to please the interviewer or to get over it, but observation will allow you to see their pain points and places where users have a difficult time doing something in their natural context, which increase your understanding of them. Observation helps to see what people do and not what people say they do.
Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life.
Research and understand the context of use with questionnaires/interviews and surveys: This is not entirely effective as observation, but it is also one of the tools to use to understand the people. Interviews can fix biases the designer had in mind. In many cases, the designer has a shallow understanding of the context and thinks the people are in the same situation as he/she is. Using interviews and questionnaires, one can get people’s thoughts, beliefs, and motivations more deeply. Interviews will allow us to know, understand and explore people’s behavior and thoughts. Doing surveys is an excellent way to validate the information gathered from observations and interviews as they can be shared with a more significant number of people the designer could not observe or interview. However, to fully understand the people, try to limit the rush when doing interviews and surveys, especially surveys, as users can rush through without too much thought.
Active Listening: To understand the people you are trying to serve, listening skill is a must. Active listening is to earnestly listen and show an interest in what the person is saying. It will make the interviewee feel comfortable to share more and valuable information. It will also help you concentrate on the person and what he is saying so that you do not miss anything, including body language.
Understanding the people through evaluation: At the evaluation stage during iteration, The designer can understand more the people. Users will give valuable insights on the product itself and if the system’s functionality is matched to the user’s expectations. For the designer, It becomes effortless to understand how easy the system is to learn for the user, how satisfied the user is with interacting with the system and identify areas of the design that negatively impact workload and trust. However, evaluation as a way of understanding the people should only be used at the end of the HCD process, precisely in the iteration process. Otherwise, it will be a waste of inputs to understand the people when you already have a non-people-focused product. Understanding the people start from stage 1 of empathy and ideation and goes till iteration. For example, if a nail manufacturer decides to do quality control at the end of the manufacturing line, it is useless because inputs would be lost, yet he could have performed a sequential quality check at various points to avoid total loss of inputs.
What They Say and What They Don’t Say
People do not always give all the details. They may withhold information out of fear, distrust, or some other factor. Moreover, people have different communication skills levels. Some may express themselves in ways not highly articulate. To understand them, the designer has to try to understand what is not being said or what is being hinted at. Designers need to develop intuition, imagination, and empathy to dig deeper without being too inquisitive about extracting the right kinds of insight. Designers need empathy to understand people thoroughly. There are some thoughtless acts or hints, or twisted words a user can do or say that can be a good insight for the development of your product. We can find opportunities for new solutions to help people within unconscious acts.
Mix user goals with user preferences to identify people’s need
Goals are the things users need to do, and the preferences are what the user may want or like, such as layouts, colors, style. Let me explain this with an example. People interact with an e-commerce website so that they can access a service they want to shop for. Their goal is to shop, not interact with the website. However, if the website does not have an excellent UX that matches the users’ preferences, users will tend not to achieve their goal, which was shopping—so understanding the users in understanding their goals and preferences and mix the two.
If a designer combines all these techniques stated above, he can be sure that he is on the right path to designing the right thing.
Blog written By:
Jean de Dieu Manishimwe
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