Step One in the UX process

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Many aspiring UX designers while learning the UX ropes get held up on step one. It’s not that it sounds hard or that it is overly complicated. It’s just a little awkward and not something most of us do in our everyday lives. At least in this way.

Step one in the UX process is to talk to potential users. Sounds simple enough. Many of us talk quite a bit in our daily lives, so what makes this process so tricky for newbie UX designers? The actual talking isn’t the problem. It’s the planning to talk.

You see, to conduct proper UX research you’ll want to know two things. The first is where to find your potential users. This is most definitely harder than it seems. They might be in a specific Facebook group or maybe you can find them on Reddit. Maybe they hang out in Whole Foods or maybe the library, but you have to actually identify them as the humans to talk to so you need to get their attention. Ask for their permission. Find out if they have the problem you are trying to address. Some problems are easily identifiable with a willing target audience:

Does your child have challenges focusing on their schoolwork?

That’s a research question many people will jump on board to give you their input on. But other questions are harder and not as easily relatable.

Does your sleep equipment need cleaning?

Um, I have no idea? And what’s sleep equipment? Now if you find someone with this problem, they absolutely will jump on this bandwagon, but many of us don’t have sleep equipment and if we do, we didn’t know it needed to be cleaned so actually finding the people will be the tough part. The great part about this is that once you have identified where to find them (Sleep Apnea Centers of America!?) you will be able to ask them very specific questions and your potential users have now become likely users. Often you will hear the marketing term, find your niche or the richest are in the niches. That’s what they mean. If you have a very specific problem that you are addressing, you might initially have trouble finding your audience, but if you do find them, they are very likely to become customers. From a UX perspective, that means we are very likely to find users willing and ready to help us get the info we need to build our amazing user experience.

But finding the user is only the first half of step one. The second part is actually asking them questions. I like to encourage my students to write their questions down first before they recruit user research participants. It makes it more tangible when they are looking for research participants. If you have the questions pre-written, when you ask for, 15 minutes of your time, you know exactly what you are going to use that time for.

So step one is talk to potential users by first finding them and then asking them specific, helpful questions. Again this is another place many learners can get tripped up. If you ask potential users, “what do you think should go into the design?”, you are not asking the right questions. You want to dig into their problem and the problem with their current solutions. Often times users are using some type of ad hoc solution to meet their needs because they are not aware a real solution exists for them. You’re really just trying to understand how much of a problem this is for them by digging deep and asking “what else”? in regards to their pain.

If you are not sure how this will help you in regards to designing a solution, it is the starting point. The more pain, the bigger the part of the solution it should be. And by solution, I mean software. And with software there are always many different options when it comes to solutions. We call that “feature creep” so knowing where to focus your time and attention in terms of what to design first and most prominently, is essential to creating a quality UX solution.

So in terms of working through step one in the UX process, remember it’s about finding the right audience who has the problem you are working to solve and then asking them questions related to that problem so you know where to focus your attention on designing a quality UX solution!

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