The Product Design Process

Identifying Customers

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

The Product Design Process

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The "Identifying Customers" Lesson is part of the full, The Product Design Process course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

Paul discusses the importance of understanding the audience in product design. He explains how to segment the audience based on different criteria such as tasks, paint points, and goals.


Transcript from the "Identifying Customers" Lesson

>> I wanna dive in a little bit deeper into the subject of understanding our audience. It's shocking, isn't it? That a design course talks about understanding users, who would've known that was coming. But it is, when you're talking about product design you really have to, it's such an important area to talk about.

And particularly, when you're talking about products as well, I think it's essential because essentially, how you positioning your product and who you're targeting, as I said when I use that task app as an example, can fundamentally affect the nature of the product that you're producing. So, right at the beginning, we need to identify and understand who our audience is, really before we try and do anything else.

And even if it's an existing app that you're working on, please, please make sure that is clearly defined before you go any further. Otherwise, you're gonna constantly be hitting disagreements over what needs to be in or what needs to be out of the app because people will have different views about who the audiences are.

So basically what we need to do is segment our audiences, which is a marketing term but actually very useful. If you start thinking of your audiences as just big chunks of people and there's this kind of vague idea of the kind of person they are, then that lacks the clarity that you need and it needs to be done better than that.

However, the way that I would suggest that you segment your audiences maybe a little bit different from how many people think about segmentation. Because most people when they think about segmentation are thinking about it from a marketing perspective. So marketing people tend to segment around demographics or socioeconomic groups or interest groups and that kind of thing.

For us, it's fine to think in those terms, to picture a stay-at-home mum or whatever else. But in terms of how you decide to split out your audience, you wanna split them out based on different criteria to things like demographics and stuff like that. So for example, different questions, right?

If there's an audience that has a certain set of questions that they come to your app with or certain objections, or certain challenges that they face, then that makes a good audience, right? To segment them in that regards. Tasks is another really good example, right? If an audience wants to complete different tasks to another audience, that's a good way of splitting it, right?

Or they've got different needs, then you wanna split it along those lines as well. So that task app example I gave from earlier is a really good example of this. That project managers, stay at home mums and a freelancer for example, that would be an obvious way of splitting your audience.

Because freelancer, project managers and stay at home moms have very different questions that they ask, very different tasks they wanna complete, and very different needs, okay? Well, if you looked at it from a purely demographic point of view, actually they could have all ended up falling into the same demographic of certain socioeconomic group.

But it's their needs that define them rather than their demographics is, I guess, what I'm getting at. So looking at your audience in those terms is very important. You might also wanna consider the other little aspect of this is usage level of the app. So, if someone is just using the app occasionally, then they are gonna have different needs and different requirements to somebody who's using it regularly.

Equally, somebody who's using it for the first time is gonna have very different needs to somebody who's been using it for donkeys years or different perspective, right? So it's hard for me to give specific advice about how you segment, but thinking around those needs, those tasks and those questions will get you in the right direction.

And then once that has been done, then it's a matter of beginning to put together a bit of an empathy map or a persona around those people. Now, I tend to avoid using the P word, the persona word. And that has come about because if you say persona, you can pretty much guarantee someone in either the marketing department or senior management will go, yeah, we produced a persona last year, we can use that, right?

But the information that they will have on their personas will be marketing information and not the information that you actually need, right? So you're better off creating, calling it something like an empathy map. It's basically the same thing, but it has different information on stuff that we need as product designers.

So it's things like questions and tasks, what tasks are the user trying to complete? What questions or objections they need answering. Pain points. What pain points are users experiencing? Goals. What's users ultimate goal, what they're trying to achieve? Their journey. Where is the user on their journey and what if any interactions that they had so far?

What's influencing them in using the app, whether it be people, things, places, whatever, and how are they feeling about the experience. So I tend to take each of my segments, create an empathy map around those. But obviously I need to do some user research in order to understand what's in those, and so that is a big part of it as well.

But that is more covered in the the course that I've done on user research and testing. So once you've kind of segmented your audience, you then need to think about their use cases and how they're gonna be using your app. And the process that I go through with that is I start by just gathering lots of tasks that I think that my different audiences will need to complete.

And there are loads of sources you can go to to work out what these are. You can look at existing customer feedback, you can look at site behavior, you can talk to stakeholders within both users. They're a type of stakeholder, but also internal stakeholders, especially people that are dealing with customers on a regular basis.

You can look at search analytics or you can do competitive analysis, look at social media, there are all these kinds of ways that you can kind of gather a list of things that someone might wanna do with the app. Lots of those, however, require you to have an app in order to be able to do those.

Not all of them. You can still look at the competition, for example. You can still look at social media. But if you are struggling to come up with a big old list of tasks that your particular segment might wanna do on your app, then you can cheat and ask Chat GPT instead [LAUGH].

Cause it is remarkably good at coming up with ideas and brainstorming just to kind of get you going. Is that the legitimate and sensible way of doing it? Absolutely not. But we'll cut corners sometimes in order to move things forward. So yeah, you basically here's an example I wrote as an employee of a particular university on an HR website.

What kind of things might I wanna do on that website? And then it's suggested a load of things that I might wanna do and it did a really good job at it, actually. Cuz in that case I had done the user research and it got a big chunk of the tasks that I had on my list already.

So it does a pretty good job actually, shockingly. Then once I've got that list of tasks, I tend to like turning them into user story cards, which has been, I think I stole from Agile. Is it Agile that uses user story cards? It doesn't. I just find it a really nice way of kind of formatting these things that people wanna do.

So I ended up with a big pile of user story cards, which formatted like this as a, whatever the segment is, stay at home mum. I want to easily organize my grocery list so that I can get out of the supermarket as quickly as possible. And I know when I'm done when I've got all my food home and packed away, that's a user story card.

It's not complicated to do, but it's very useful. So you'll end up with this stack ton of tasks that somebody might wanna do and you'll end up with so many that you are now presented with a problem, all right? Of if you built an app that accommodated all of these tasks, it would be unusable.

Now any of you remember before Microsoft Office introduced the ribbon design, right? We had these massive drop-down menus of all these different functions. Photoshop used to be like it as well. It was a nightmare, in fact it still is if I'm honest, of loads of palettes and drop-downs and all.

They've just got so much functionality crammed into the thing and no real hierarchy in that, right? Isn't that, well, if you look at the Microsoft Office ribbon, it's taken the most used things that you use most of the time and pulled them to the front, right? That's good design, okay?

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