All in the Details

An old family friend used to always harp on us as kids with one word – “details”. The details are what connect the dots in an experience with any product or service. When observing users in the field, researchers must carefully pay attention to the little things that can easily be overlooked. These little things provide great insight for motivations behind behavior and make up the fabric of a holistic user experience.

Can You Remember?

If someone asked you to provide, from memory, a detailed step-by-step description of how you manage medicine in your daily life could you do it? Even if you could, you would probably be leaving out minor details that don’t seem important because they are routine, but they could be critical to understanding and redefining the experience. When conducting user research, we observe behavior and have discussion in context of use so we can see in real time what people actually do rather than rely on their memories to tell us what they think they do.

Follow the Data

One of the hardest parts about user-experience design is removing personal assumptions, beliefs, and bias from the equation. While personal experience is relevant and can be a helpful tool, it can also cloud judgement by way of jumping to solutions. It is critically important for researchers and designers to stay disciplined and focused on data – patterns found in experiences shared by many users. Before jumping into a research or design exercise it can be helpful to discuss and jot down any assumptions, beliefs, and biases as a team so minds are clear and open.

Learn from Extremes

Some products and experiences are universal to all types of users so virtually anyone can provide valuable input. However there are many scenarios where learning from the “extremes” is very valuable. For example, people with certain disabilities might help expose usability challenges of a product. “Power users” of a product can help researchers and designers understand nuances and specific details that ordinary users overlook. These nuances and details are the keys to understanding behavior and identifying opportunities for innovation.

-Jordan French

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You cannot understand good design if you do not understand people; design is made for people. – Dieter Rams