Decoding the Mind of Your User

From the UI process of developing user personas, a site owner or designer must dig deeper to truly understand the mind of their user. For a site redesign or refresh, this will mean using existing analytics and behavioral data to funnel users to the desired destinations. For a newly launching site, initial queries must be posed to determine critical aspects to user pathways such as:

  • motivation levels
  • habits
  • theoretical patterns
  • information relevance
  • expectations

Since ultimately the main focus is on the user and on a user’s requirements the importance of this stage cannot be stressed enough. Performing the ‘due diligence’ in uncovering the information of the user mind will highlight the assets needed to develop firm user pathways and a strong site architecture.

With regard to an expanded reach and the goal of a bigger market share, multiple user personas should be determined and developed into in depth user profiles. With the prevalence and impact of personalization, each user must be developed as the ideal version of itself – with the site working to make each user’s existence easier, better and smarter. In a word: useful – to each and every person it engages with.

User experience does not exist without the user – so it’s critical to involve them in the process. Conducting user research – not simply gathering analytics, but getting into the field, engaging with the ideal user – and applying these findings to a testing phase is a non-negotiable process. Data is a big part of gathering the information needed, however, in a project’s infancy, a more humanistic approach may be applied to obtain information.

Many times a team will determine what works internally, in their proverbial ‘bubble’. These stakeholders, designers and directors are not the user – and will deliver an altered experience that may not fully cater to the true user.

Pathways to User Information

A well orchestrated user experience project requires a clear vision about what the user thinks and emotes about the interface, and cannot be determined with pure statistics and market. Employing a ‘pure process’ by asking questions through select channels will help to gather this information in a more true fashion.

A/B, Usability Testing –Testing the difference between two user interfaces with the same information or vice versa. Helps to identify stuck spots and where optimizing needs to be made.

Outside Survey – A predetermined set of queries posed to a wide audience, used in many ways from gathering wide ranging initial information to specific single question queries. Usually done online and can deliver differing results even from the same user at varying times. Not the most humanistic approach, unless survey participants are asked to provide elaboration beyond ‘Yes/No, 1-10 emotion/likely/not-likely’ questions.

User Interview – A more personal approach where a site owner drives conversations with prospective and existing users. This can be done via phone or in person. Usually a one-to-one experience taking anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours. Can include a walk through of the interface.

Observatory Experience – Conducted in the users environment (‘natural habitat’) to provide direct, accurate information about a very specific user. Helps to understand a work environment and what the user is looking for to help their needs, and solve their problems by using the interface/brand/product in question.

Focus Group – Gathering together of a specific ideal user group to find common patterns and preferences and identify areas of need.

Analyzing the takeaway information as soon as possible is just as important as conducting it. At the speed of technological advancement, user preferences change, and turning the gathered content into relevant applications is critical to continually optimizing for the best user experience.

Vanessa Petersen

As Executive Director of Brand Strategy based in ArtVersion’s Portland office, Vanessa manages both national and West Coast accounts. She brings with her a passion for strategy with extensive experience in creative marketing, brand growth and development. She is a true advocate of storytelling and brand building from the inside out, and her keen knowledge of the marketplace, trend patterns and usability lead her to identify opportunities that can inspire powerful design strategies.

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