Humans are unique. What makes your customers tick?
Understanding the end consumer
The most vital phase of human centered design begins with research, and a laser focus on understanding the end consumer better. At the end of the day, the end consumer is the one that will experience what you’re creating.
So how is this done? How do we understand the end consumer? We must begin by getting to know them better, and removing any assumptions we may have, and interacting with them directly.
There are several ways of doing this: interviews, focus groups, surveys, are great examples of capturing data. Each of these come with advantages and disadvantages. Each method will get you a lot of quality data; not necessarily information that would define their behavior, but data that can be analyzed to understand what actual behavior is, and what it would look like in certain situations.
The key focus here is behavior. Why? Because most of the time when a user is asked a question the answer provided is often incorrect. There are often inconsistencies in an answer and the actual behavior of the person when put in a real world situation. These inconsistencies are what prevent individual pieces of data from being confirmed characteristics. By getting a large amount of data it then becomes a matter of processing it to form good quantitative datasets.
Apart from basic research like age, demographics and behavioral patterns, it is important to understand the emotions of the person and how they behave in a situation similar to that of the problem you are aiming to solve. By doing so you are empathizing with the user and thereby creating a truly human centric design.
Regardless of data collection techniques, you must always try to get the most information out. For instance, when conducting an interview, rather than asking “yes” or “no” questions – such as “Do you have ‘X’ problem when you’re using ‘Y’ products” – leave more room for a more personal, emotionally driven response. Instead phrase in a more open ended manner – “What are your main frustrations when using ‘Y’ products?”. This encourages a more in depth response than a simple “yes” or “no”, and can uncover insights otherwise overlooked.
Not unsimilar to other situations in our life, first impressions can make a big impact on your research. Be sure to break the ice before starting an interview. While this seems simple, a few personal questions to start will create a positive connection with the user before starting, and can lead to a much more relaxed Q&A session moving forward.
The refine phase
Once research is completed you will be armed with enough behavioral information to refine any initial user assumptions. This phase is about defining the problem that you’re trying to solve in detail. Thankfully, a great dataset from your research will enable informed decisions hereafter.
With new problem statements in hand, and often the refining of those that already existed, you can move forward with trusted, user verified research and not rely on unconfirmed assumptions.