Part 03: Need finding

In this part you will learn about why it is important to understand the Needs of people you are designing for, an introduction to user Research and an introduction to personas.

Importance of observation

An effective starting point for designing new technology is to clearly identify an existing problem or user need. Finding a big problem or need often yield an untapped opportunity for design. Observing people can also help you build empathy and think from their point of view, walk in someone else’s shoes, or maybe wear someone else’s gloves.

The author and designer, Mike Kuniavsky, gave me the example of Qualcomm and their work making devices for truckers. Apparently with an early version of the system the responses were often blank or when they were there they were pretty minimal. These devices had small buttons and one thing that emerged through participant observation is that unsurprisingly truckers have big hands, and furthermore because they living lifting heavy things, they often wear gloves. So the small buttons were completely impractical. The resulting re-design featured a large touchscreen. Additionally, because it was an interactive touchscreen where you can change what is beneath the button the most common response at particular locations was always featured there prominently. This dramatically reduced the amount of typing that was needed and the stylus was introduced to be able to provide precise input on the rare occasions that it was needed.

There are some questions that you may want to ask when doing field work. What the people do now? What values and goals do they have? How are the particular things that you’re observing embedded in a larger ecology of artifacts and social networks and broader career and personal and professional goals? And what are some similarities and differences across people? Do you see everybody in a particular community doing the same thing, or are there some things that are more idiosyncratic? Both can be valuable by the way. What you should have learned is how to ask and listen to be able to find out what peoples`real goals are.

From user Research to persona

Once you have identified the end user of your solution, determine what you’re curious to know about them, their goals, needs, motivations, tools, and steps to reach that goal. For example, you might ask them to describe a recent travel booking they made. Summarize your questions in an interview guide and schedule time to meet with your potential end users. Preferably in their own environment. Take notes of your findings and interviews.

Once you and your team come back from conducting interviews share your stories by referring to your notes and artifacts. Take notes of key findings from your interviews and post-its. Look for common themes across your findings such as common user characteristics, goals, needs and motivations. For example, you might find commonalities among frequent and infrequent travelers. Next, create a persona. A persona is an aggregate of a specific user type. Use the data from your synthesis to create your persona. Describe them, their needs, goals, and motivations. Once you created your persona, you might have found a long list of needs. Designing for all these needs, you might end up with something like very complicated Swiss pocket knife. Creating a point of view for each important need of the persona will help your solution focus. For example, a frequent traveler needs a way to quickly book the same trip over and over while getting the best seat for a cross country flight.

Instruction for creating personas

Creating Personas from MOOC House on Vimeo.


About Tobias Riedner
Tobias Riedner foundet in 2015. He works and worked as innovator, consultant, analyst and educator in the fields of business intelligence and data warehousing. He learned a lot from the best consultants, managers und educators in the past and shares his knowledge worldwide. He works for a steady growing traditional company which is a leader in industry 4.0.