Do UX Research With Real Humans


What do your customer’s pains and problems have to do with effective UX design? Everything.

Most businesses exist to solve a problem or a variety of problems for their customers. To create the best design solution for a digital product, you must have a deep understanding of your customer’s problem.

If you’re a consultant working on behalf of a client, that means you have to get to know your customer’s customer. But how do you do that?

In the old days of designing marketing websites, the marketing team would make a bunch of assumptions and the design team would just jump in and go.

Then they would wonder why no one visited the new website. Thankfully those days of misguided thinking are (mostly) over.

Conduct UX Research With Real Humans, Not Just Data

The only way to find real-world customer pain points is to get as close to the source as possible, which means speaking with real customers whenever you can.

You’ll likely need permission to access these people. Once you get the ok, there are several ways to go.

Depending on the size of the company, you might find an entire department dedicated to customer service or customer relationships.

Or it just might be you and your office manager. Whatever the options, find the best way to connect with real, live humans who are familiar with your product.

Talk To Customers

The absolute best way to talk to customers is to just talk to them. Get a conversation going about what their most challenging pain points are with the product.

Most people love to talk about themselves. If you’re lucky enough to interview real people, come prepared with a list of focused questions.

Ask them what the problem is, how it’s impacting them, and what they wish would change. Also ask open-ended questions and give them a chance to speak openly and candidly.

What are they struggling with the most right now? What keeps them up at night? Find out how bad it hurts – is the problem costing them time, money, or both? If yes, how much and how often?

Talk To Customer Service

Sometimes you just can’t get in front of customers due to your relationship with your client or other restrictions. If you can’t take someone out for coffee or follow them around as they do their job, see if you can find someone who can.

When I can’t speak directly with customers, a great alternative is to interview customer service reps and dig through any data they can provide.

I’ll often ask permission to listen in on live customer service calls for an hour or two. You’d be amazed at the gold nuggets that result from capturing these conversations.

It’s also helpful to speak directly to customer service reps, since they experience customer pain points on the front lines every day. Assuming you have permission, you can often get access to closed support tickets or email data that provides useful insights.

Conduct User Surveys

While not as impactful, online surveys can be useful as long as the questions are carefully designed and the number of questions are minimized. People are busy, so you don’t want to take up any more of their time than necessary.

Just as you would in person, keep your questions short, focused, and open-ended. Avoid yes/no questions, and give people an estimate of how long the survey should take. You might need to give people an incentive in exchange for their time such as a gift card or other freebie.

A Worthy Investment

Taking the time to uncover real customer pain points is the absolute best investment in your early design efforts. Getting clarity on real issues from real people at the beginning will give you a roadmap to the right solution and pay huge dividends down the road.

What about you? How do you conduct user research? What works? What doesn’t?Let me know what you’re thinking in the comments.

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