Shouldn’t the user experience … be about the user’s actual experience? A study published in the Oxford Journal Interacting With Computers, find that a UX designer’s goal is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.” However, sometimes user experience (UX) designers tend to get wrapped up in the design itself, without trying to think like the potential users.
That’s where empathy pays off as a designer and just about any other job, really.
This is why we feel that UX team members should talk with and workshop their features with consumers more frequently to become better designers.
What about “don’t listen to anyone”?
Maybe some designers think that other people’s opinions will negatively influence the process, but they’re mavericks. Feedback is always good, whether you take it or ignore it.
Customers can provide insight into the things they’re using daily that aren’t working. Potential buyers can be “fresh eyes,” people who’ve never seen your product and can provide unbiased opinions. Partner can provide insight into what their clients are saying … without filters.
When marketing professionals think about brand and rebranding, they meet with a variety of people — employees, partners, customers and prospects. They understand the brand experience to all parties with the nuances each person has and then take that information to cement or alter the brand (the heart of it or the reflection of it).
UX testing and listening should include that same group: employees, partners, customers and potential customers.
Your customer service team will know the biggest issues. They work day-in and day-out with people, helping with the same obstacles over and over. They’ll know your biggest pain points. Sales and account managers might too. As they demo things and explain features, chances are good they’ll run into obstacles with the customer or potential customer. They’ll provide good insight, too.
Customers, potential customers and partners
Yes, users can be finicky and unsure about what they really want, but this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak with them about their various preferences and ideas. No, they are not designers, which is why you should take these opinions with a grain of salt. Weigh ideas and judge them against good design practices. For example, if someone’s complaining that something’s not easy to use, but their suggestion for fixing it doesn’t seem like the best option then ignore the suggestion. While ignoring the suggestion, think about what made something difficult to use and determine ways to make it easier.
You can’t do your job well without listening to customers, but we would just like to urge to to start listening smarter, rather than not at all.
Cast a wide net
Listening to more than a few users (customers) and prospects will give you trends. The trends are the things to worry most about. For example if you asked 20 people to complete a task and 15 couldn’t using your software, there may be an issue.
Diversity in testing can only help. Of course there’s a target who you’re aiming for, but ideally your software will be easy for anyone to use. Don’t eliminate people based on age, for example.
As part of the testing plans, you can ask for age and computer experience — including in the industry or job you think is your target audience.
Be unbiased or get someone who is
Testing plans can be difficult. You have to be sure not to lead the person. Also, you’ll have biases on what you think works well and what doesn’t. It takes a special person to rise above them and keep an open mind. If you’re mind’s not open to new thinking, even if it’s different than your own, you’ll have difficulty listening.
Many times, having a neutral UX person assigned to the project will help. They won’t have preconceptions about the product and may have better judgement about real issues and trends. They also may be able to provide guidance on solutions, based on feedback, because they’re a fresh set of eyes themsevles.
Listen before designing
The cyclical process of a UX designer’s work life consists of creating prototypes, testing them out, getting feedback and going back to improve or tailor those features. Instead, we would suggest that you first observe, research and investigate your consumers’ activities, motivations and goals. Then, tailor your designs toward that particular audience.
When you test your features on a control group of consumers, don’t listen to their predictions or suggestions. Instead, focus on the pain points brought up by multiple individuals. This way, you can move past feeling overwhelmed at the numerous, conflicting opinions and get to the heart of the matter.
When you listen smarter, you design smarter.
More ideas on listening
Check out how to engage in active listening.
Get ideas from others.