Designing Products for Real Users

Designing Products for Real Users
November 23, 2017 Tim Lavin

Designing Products for Real Users

When creating a new product it is essential to design with the User in mind. This may seem like a very obvious statement, however from personal experience this is surprisingly not always considered.

I have analysed and worked on numerous software projects in my role as a UX designer at  Graphic Mint. At the beginning of any project and continuing through to completion I regularly ask who is the User, what problem am I trying to solve for the User and is there any clear purpose as to why this product was created in the first place. These questions provide constraints to the project so that designers like myself don’t lose track of what the product needs to ultimately be. In this article I am going to give you an overview of these questions and the processes necessary to follow when creating a new product.

What, Who and How 

What are you designing and Who are you designing it for are the two most important  questions you need to consider when beginning the development of  a new product design. Once you have clarified this you are well placed to create something special that will solve real problems for real Users. Next you need to focus on how to design it. What, Who and How are the three integral ingredients needed to create a User-Centred product. Let’s dive into the process in a bit more detail.

What Product to Design

Jesse James Garrett’s “The Elements of User Experience” Source: johnferrigan.com

Establishing what product you wish to design can be achieved by contemplating the goal/outcome. Ask yourself what is the product’s primary goal and what problem is it trying to solve? Then consider the context, where and when will this product be used? These questions will assist in narrowing your design focus.

By carrying out competitive analysis and looking at alternative products on the market you will quickly gather, which solutions to the problem have succeeded and failed.. Weigh both the pros and cons in addition to reading real User reviews. Try and find out what they like and don’t like about it. Use this information to empathise with your User’s needs.

Ask the question; “Are there great ideas that they had that weren’t correctly implemented that you could improve upon?” The final stage to this phase of development should involve you examining the constraints placed upon your product; namely timeline, technical or other issues.

Who are Your Users

When designing any product it is essential to remember at all times that you are not designing for yourself. Design is not and should never be about what the designer wants. Instead, it is all about solving a problem. If you forget this then you forget your Users. Creating detailed User personas , which we have outlined in an earlier blog, will help you get to know your User and their needs. There is lots of advice out there about creating personas, I suggest that you consider the following when creating one:

  • Do your homework
  • Map out clear characteristics
  • Set boundaries
  • Make them believable

When breaking down the components of your User persona, you need to look at their behaviour and attitudes. This is subjective research based on your Users’ emotional responses. This should then be cross referenced with factual and objective research, which is not influenced by emotion. Essentially, this is creating a User persona through the marriage of both qualitative (emotion) and quantitative (data) research.

Finally, you need to examine the goals and benefits that your product gives to the Users, in comparison to alternative products already on the market. Now that you know what product to design and who you are designing it for, what is left ? You need to know how to design the product.

How to Design It  

I recommend that you begin with design ideation or creating a design solution. You should make some assumptions in order to narrow the scope of your project. It is important to acknowledge that you will need to carry out Usability Testing to validate these assumptions later in project, ensuring you are still focused on your Users’ needs.

Next create a scenario, this is a story, which helps to focus your design. Map out the main steps of your design story, following the route your User persona will take through the product you’ve created . This map can then be translated into the critical User interface screen for your product. You are now well on your way to creating a focused User Centred product that solves real world problems.

In Summary

Creating a product for real Users that solves actual problems, can often get lost along its development path. I believe that knowing what product you are creating and who you are designing it for is essential at the beginning .

If you find that you are lost along the way, remember that you have identified a problem and  your product needs to solve this in the most frictionless manner possible. This is the goal and if you achieve this, you will have succeeded in creating a User-Centred product.

Tim is a UX Designer at Graphic Mint.