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    Understanding your Baby (Err… I mean, USER!)

    Posted by Luis Serpa on April 6, 2011 - 7:44 PM

    Translating Baby TalkWorking on User Experience is a lot harder when users cannot properly communicate their needs.

    I’m reminded of that now on a daily basis with my 4 months old daughter… In my line of work, Babies represent the quintessential user experience challenge:

    Understanding and satisfying the needs of someone with whom you have no common language, no shared experience or perspective.

    A baby won’t tell you if she’s hungry, tired, cold or bored. Their main way of conveying any message is by crying, so you must observe them in their own environment to really understand what they need.

    If you think about it, this is not much different from what happens in between IT departments and its users in global corporations like UL: even when all our users speak (fluently) the same language, which is rarely the case, they usually don’t know how to explain their needs and, when they do, their explanation may seem like complete gibberish to someone without the same work background and life experiences.

    Amazingly enough, these incomplete, roughly translated and out-of-context user requests are the base of system requirements in most corporations.

    My point is that without careful observation of your users’ actions and behaviors, we may end up answering only to the requests of whoever cries louder instead of learning the actual needs of our user base. This is akin to easing a symptom while leaving the underlying disease untreated. A mistake like that could end up killing your baby and that’s why parents go to such a length to bond with their offspring…

    Another thing that babies have in common with corporate users is that they are constantly changing. What you knew about them last month is no longer valid now. They evolve and change very rapidly so you cannot trust that what worked before will work the same way again now. You need to keep observing them and find out what changed in their environment before taking new actions.

    User Experience Design (UXD) in a project brings more than better interfaces, UXD techniques can help you understand your users‘ real needs, translate their requests and, most important still, validate their perceptions.

    So, for your next project, add UXD to your planning and see how much you can increase your chances of success. Meanwhile, I will go back to learning a bit more of baby talk

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    One Response to “Understanding your Baby (Err… I mean, USER!)”

    1. Greetings! Very useful advice within this post! It’s the little changes which will make the most important changes. Many thanks for sharing!

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