Paul Hill by Paul Hill

Discovering user needs: 6 ways to maximise outcomes with our powerful questions and exercises

  • Design Process
  • General

Discovering user needs through user research is a vital part of the design process, but to maximise the outcome of the user research, you need to ask the right questions. 

A rapid digital transformation and the onset of the fourth industrial revolution have brought a unique set of challenges in the space of human-centered design. 

Consumer needs are evolving rapidly, and this introduces a whole different dimension of complexity for designers who have to create solutions that cater to the fast-moving desires of the users and the user needs.

You need to know how to understand your user needs.

To help, we’ve put together a short list of exercises you can complete and questions you can ask to better understand the needs of your users. 

Why is it important to identify user needs?

First, let’s cover why it’s important to identify user needs in the first place. After all, you’re the one creating the product. Don’t you know what should go into it?

Short answer, no.

The issue with this line of thinking is that it relies on assumptions. When you don’t investigate the users’ needs, you may end up with a product that thinks it knows what the user wants rather than one that knows what they want. 

While it’s still possible to create an effective product this way, being sure that your product aligns with the wants and needs of your users reduces the chance of getting it wrong. It’ll increase your opportunity for success and better guarantee a product that both you and your audience will be happy to use. 

Exercises to complete

  • Stakeholder interviews

One of the first exercises you should complete when uncovering user needs is stakeholder interviews. This is a great way to establish the “musts” of your product. 

During these interviews, you’ll want to get to the heart of the project that your stakeholders have envisioned. That means understanding why they want to create this product, who they see it benefiting, what problem they aim to solve with it, and where they are and aren’t willing to compromise. 

  • User research

The next step in understanding user needs is user research. User research involves taking that audience your stakeholder has identified and looking into their needs. The product is ultimately for them, so researching and interviewing them is crucial. 

You’ll want to run your idea by them, see what they would like to get from it, ensure that there is a market for this product and that you’ve accurately predicted it, and of course, be sure that the requirements of your stakeholders align with the requirements from your users. 

  • User testing

Lastly, you should always conduct user testing. This will allow you to see that your product is solving the problem that it was designed to solve. And you want to be sure that it’s solving it well. 

You need to conduct user testing at the end of a product’s development, but it’s also a good idea to perform testing before this as well. By conducting user testing at various milestones of development, you can be sure that your product starts and stays on track. 

Questions to ask

User intent

Alongside exercises, questions can be a great way to better understand your user needs. And one of the first questions you should be asking your stakeholders, users, and development team is what your user’s intent is. 

In other words, at any given point in the use of your product, you should work to understand what the user wants to do with the product. What do they need from it? How will it help them solve their problem? And what can you put into your product to help them solve and understand how to solve that problem. 

Mental models 

Next, you should work to make mental models of your users’ frame of mind. This is another great way to ask questions and investigate your user needs. 

A mental model is a diagram built around a single user persona. Match it to one of your demographics, name this person, and identify why they’re using your product. From there, use this mental model to start to understand your product from the user’s perspective. 

Assessing success

Finally, you can use questions to help you create your definition of success. What does your product need to accomplish to be considered a success in your eyes? What about your stakeholders? And most importantly, what about your users?

Understand your user needs with help from Thunk

Need help creating a product that will meet your user needs? Reach out to Thunk today and we’ll build the right tools together.