User-centric or Product-centric? Solutions for people, not for brands (nor for the boss 😝)
User-centric design is an iterative process that places people as the main focus of the process. Being in close and constant contact with everyone involved in the end experience of a product or service allows us to understand and deeply empathize with their real needs. At Pixel Research Lab, we do not only put end-users at the centre. We also seek to understand what every person involved in the process needs, including company employees at all levels, strategic partners and competitors.
Explore, Define, Ideate, Plan and Experiment are the steps we use at Pixel to overcome any challenges that come across. We know that this process is iterative, that “projects” are never ending, and that we should study the three emotional levels that impact people's experiences: 👀 Visceral, ☝️ Behavioral and 🧠 Reflective.
Let us introduce you to Pedro’s story 🙋🏻
Pedro has spent several days working alone on a problem that he was asked to solve. Pedro is sure that he has found a solution. He shares his idea with people close to him, and they all think it’s a good proposal.
The day has come: Pedro presents his proposal to the whole team. He can't make concrete predictions on how many sales this idea can increase for the company, but he is "sure" that it will be a success. The team, from the experts' point of view, immediately supports Pedro's proposal and spends several days implementing it. Finally, the solution is launched.
A few days later, the results start coming: users have encountered many problems with the new implementation, the company is flooded with help requests, and sales have decreased. The whole team stops the process to (finally!) assess the situation. What has happened?
We’ve been part of Pedro's team many times: investing hours of work and spending resources and team energy without the certainty that whatever we are doing will have a positive and valuable effect for the users, the team and the business.
🚨 These are the main problems we come across regularly from top companies & startups to early entrepreneurs:
💩 Lack of definition: the brief is usually focused on solving the symptoms, not the problem.
💩 Business-centric: the “problem” is usually focused on the business side, e.g., on sales metrics or complaints.
💩 Product-centric: the “problem” is focused on improving the product with functionalities that the team finds useful or cool.
💩 Users are not considered as part of the process when exploring and defining a real problem to be solved.
💩 Solutions are developed in silos, without sharing information across teams.
💩 The impact that the solution will have for other teams is not considered.
💩 User feedback is not included: the solution is only assessed by people who are part of the industry.
💩 Feedback is only asked to close people, such as team members, family, and friends.
💩 The impact that the solution has on the business is ignored.
💩 The solution is presented from the perspective of the team that has developed it, without considering the audience. E.g., presenting designs to C-suite showing only images of the design without including any impact metrics.
💩 The people who came up with the solution fall in love with their idea and look for ways to justify it and implement it.
Are you overwhelmed by all these problems?
Don't worry. There are different tools and processes that have been developed to avoid several of the issues mentioned above. These processes will help you allocate the team's resources and energy to solutions that generate real value, not only for your users, but also for all people involved in the process. Solutions to real problems must be “people-centric” and consider both users, employees, customers, and the business.
“In UCD (User-Centered Design), you base your projects upon an explicit understanding of the users, tasks and environments. The aim of the process is to capture and address the whole user experience. Therefore, your design team should include professionals from across multiple disciplines (e.g., ethnographers, psychologists, software and hardware engineers), as well as domain experts, stakeholders and the users themselves." - “User Centered Design.” Interaction Design Foundation (2020)
You can use different methods or processes according to the team’s capabilities and resources (e.g., User Centered Design, Design Thinking, Lean UX), but make sure to always:
✅ Put people at the center of everything
✅ Understand the context and its characteristics
✅ Consider behaviors and emotions
✅ Prototype and test solutions with real users
✅ Work with multidisciplinary teams in short and iterative cycles
Explore, Define, Ideate, Plan, Experiment
Getting to know people, it is our favorite part. Our curiosity drives us to observe, question and understand what happens to each person. We listen and observe users, employees, competitors and partners to define the real problem that needs to be solved. This allows us to create team solutions that generate real value.
“We must design for the way people behave, not for how we would wish them to behave.” – Donald A. Norman. Living with Complexity (2010)
How do we do it at Pixel Research Lab?
Before proposing solutions, we try to anticipate and define if what is in front of us are the symptoms of a problem or the real problem. To achieve this, we listen and generate alignment with all stakeholders in order to create traction and focus on common objectives.
Sessions with stakeholders to listen and understand their point of view.
Sessions with users to understand their needs, motivations, pain points and profiles.
Competitors benchmark, market leaders and emerging companies.
Internal sessions with our multidisciplinary team to share the key insights from the exploration phase.
Sessions with stakeholders and the team in charge to collaboratively define the real problem to be solved, objectives and expected results.
Team brainstorming and prioritization of potential tasks.
Definition of an action plan and commitment from all team members
This is an iterative stage for prototyping and testing, in which we seek to test ideas quickly and at a low cost. This stage varies greatly depending on the problem to be solved, but it usually includes:
Sessions with real users (interviews, moderated and unmoderated tests, co-creation workshops, etc.).
Sessions with the internal team to develop prototypes and analyze the test results.
Sessions with stakeholders, presentation of results and subsequent iterations.
Research promotes the adoption of a people-centric mindset (also known as user-centric, human-centered). Don Norman describes three emotional levels that impact our experiences as users, which include not only end-users, but also employees and other collaborators.
This way, we consider people's experiences at all stages of our process: from users interacting with products or services and internal teams executing processes, to stakeholders defining objectives and delivering results.
No matter what kind of solutions are developed in your team or organization: remember that what we do is for other people, and that we all have three different levels of emotional responses that affect how we interact with those experiences. Avoid being Pedro and don't fall in love with your solution. Create user-centric solutions, get to know your users, and consider the impact of your solution on other teams.
Being people-centric is not as complex as it sounds. Being people-centric is getting to know the users inside and out of your organization.
Are you ready to start?
Did you like what you read? Do you want to have more information or do you need to answer any questions? 🤓 Contact us.
We will be happy to meet you! 🎉