Designing for Needs – Episode 1

Designing for Needs - Episode 1

Product designers have to deal with a range of end users, all of whom have different problems that need to be addressed. If a human centered approach is not the foundation of your design, it can be difficult to find out what these needs actually are and you may end up finding solutions for problems you only assumed were true.

There are several aspects that need to be analyzed and validated before a product reaches the design stage. In this post, which is the first of a two part series, we will discuss what these aspects are and how they help you design powerful and successful products. Let’s lay down the foundations first.

1 – Defining the Product Goal

Every software product has an objective that it wants to achieve. For designers, defining objectives is integral before picturizing what is to be developed. Keeping this in mind, a product’s goal can be answers to the following:

  • What is the problem that you are trying to solve?
  • Who is it for?
  • What will it accomplish?

The benefit of defining a clear goal is that it keeps you on track throughout the design process and prevents you from deviating at any point from what the product is actually meant for. Think of it like giving your product a focus. Often during the design process, designers go off track in achieving the core values of the application. As we continue shedding light on the human centered design process, you will also learn how important this step is.

2 – Defining the Business Goals and the Impact on the User

Analyzing the impact on the end-users and the business goals you are trying to achieve is another foundation of this process. For the business end, ask yourself what can you gain from the product. How can this product help you find ways to monetize, expand your audience, or to help you enter new markets for example? What impact does it have on your user and how does this impact benefit you?

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For designers, it is important to bridge the gap between user impact and business goals before a product even reaches the design stage. To illustrate this, consider a product that your firm wants to build, which will not only solve pain points of the consumers but also provide your firm a way to grow its market share.

3 – Outlining Assumptions about the End Users

In the world of design thinking, observations are made about end users which are expanded into creative solutions. However, not every user is the same or has the same needs. On the other hand, interviewing each end user is not a practical way to go about defining these needs.

To reduce guesswork, designers and product managers are hence required to create hypotheses or assumptions about end users. For example, some hypothesis for a sales team could be:

  • Users record details of a contact immediately after the conversation
  • Users don’t have access to information after working hours
  • Reports take days to compile as information is unorganized
  • Getting approvals and feedback is a lengthy process

These are the hypothesis which you will work to validate during the research phase, and in the process, gather key insights that would help in designing useful products.

4 – Creating a Research Plan

So now the time has come to get ready for the research that will help you figure out the direction of your design. Since we are taking a user centric approach, your research plan should be based on users themselves. Therefore, user interviews, or specifically how you conduct them will make a large part of this approach.

Interviewing a set of end-users will help you validate the hypothesis you made earlier and will provide you key insights in identifying the most valuable features that might fit the design you are working towards. Think of it like taking a structured approach towards the design thinking process.

Therefore, user interviews in your research plan will follow a structure as well. Take the preparations you need to conduct them as an example. These might entail:

  • Gaining information about end-users to help you prepare initial questions
  • Determining the pattern of questions that would help you gain insights from the end user about the problems they are currently facing
  • Figuring out the logistics required during the interviews
  • Preparing designs of low fidelity to get an understanding on how the user responds to the possible solutions for resolving their pain points.
Wrapping Up

Just like a house depends on quality building materials for a sturdy foundation, the success of a product depends on accurate information. And for a truly human centric approach to be successful, any data gathered should ultimately point to end users themselves.

So far, we just discussed the foundations of the human centered design process. In part two, we will emphasize how further research can help you identify opportunity areas and think of amazing ideas that might refine the design of your product. Stay tuned, you don’t want to miss that one!

Update: Part Two of this series is here! Checkout the most comprehensive guide to design features that your users would love!

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