Posted on: 26 July 2016
It’s True: Users Don’t Know What They Want
Users don’t know what they want; this is a fact of user research.
Of course, it would be great to be able to ask users “How would you design this?” or “Where would you place this call to action?” or “What do you want to see in this design?” and get beautifully articulated answers that clearly guide us in design decision making.
Unfortunately, this is rarely the case and that’s because users really don’t have a clue what they want and they usually aren’t designers.
If You Work In UX, You Know What I’m Talking About
To demonstrate this, let’s imagine that you’ve recently purchased your first home and you’re really excited to furnish and decorate the place.
If a friend were to ask you how you’re planning to design your living room, your answer might be general. You might say you want it to be cozy, bright, and inviting. It’s unlikely that you would respond to that question with the exact colour scheme, types of furniture, art as well as the placement of all these pieces in a single go. That’s because designing a gorgeous room takes some thought, planning and sometimes help from a professional.
How UX Professionals Help Users Identify Their Wants
Often when we embark on a new design project, we conduct user interviews to get an understanding of what a user does, how they currently do it, when, where and how often.
The goal of these interviews is to paint a picture of the existing user experience and identify places where users struggle, where they are delighted, where they are spending more time than they need to, etc.
Once we’ve collected this data, the onus is then on us as researchers and experience designers to create solutions that make the user experience fantastic.
Going back to the house decorating analogy, I would guess that if you were to hire an interior designer, he/she would spend quite a bit of time with you asking questions to ensure that the design they come up with really represents your needs and wants.
Having said this, it isn’t a hard and fast rule that we never ask a user how they would want something designed. Just be cautious of the data you collect and don’t take it as fact. Instead, look for trends and themes in answers that might be useful in guiding the design direction. There is also some merit to design methods such as participatory design where users are part of the design process, but the success of these methods rely heavily on the expertise of the facilitator or researcher conducting the activity.