Can you really understand user needs, without walking a mile in their shoes?

July 2017

We’ve all heard the saying "You can't understand someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes."

Every public-sector service and intervention requires design around users needs, and therefore they should always be found at the heart of the feedback loop. If we exclude user's voices, we are designing products and services which aren't fit for purpose. Fully understanding the need, how people interact and the accessibility of your message is key to being smarter and engaging more effectively. 

In light of this, in many instances your website is the face of your organisation however, surprisingly, only about 22% of businesses are satisfied with their conversion rates e.g. delivering the goals you set out to achieve via your website. (Econsultancy, 2016).

User testing highlights where your users get frustrated on your site and where they get confused. Analytics can show you what people are doing on your site; user testing helps to understand why they are doing it. With increased competition, tech savvy users and younger generations demanding more and more online services, it is simply not an option to exclude the user within the design process of your online platforms.

Yes, user testing requires investment, however, this is much more cost effective in the long run. Gathering feedback from users provides a robust, evidence based approach to your design process, helping you to make user centred design decisions. This means you are avoiding the inevitable redesign/development fees that you are likely to have to make, once it becomes clear that something that made sense to you, doesn’t always make sense to the user.

Not only that, but websites for public sector organisations are vital communication tools which help to disseminate key messages and initiatives to the public, who at which time, could very well be in a vulnerable position. If they can’t find the information they may very urgently need, e.g. a sick patient, frightened domestic abuse victim or tenant who has no heating and hot water in the middle of winter, are we protecting them to the best of our ability? 

External users will always come across issues that an internal team would never find. When you are so close to your own work, it is hard to be impartial, and, not only that, you have a different, deeper level of understanding of your organisation than those who are external, which will always influence your decision-making process.

It is important to remember that you will always get feedback, whether it is good or bad, before, or after you launch. The question is, when are we truly going to realise that doing this at the start, makes not only far more economical sense, but means we get to the right conclusion quicker and more effectively?

Cynergy have over 15 years' experience of user centred design, putting people at the heart of decision making in a variety of different circumstances including working with patients and prisoners. If you'd like to chat more about user testing, whether this is for your website or any thing else, we'd love to chat.