User research: what they’re not telling you

What are people’s actual experiences of your product or service?

They probably don’t tell you.

Not because they don’t want you to know, but because you aren’t around to hear. And why should they bother?

That’s why we need to do user research. To find out the things that they really see, do and think.

“Would you take a minute to tell us what you think of our new website?”

No thanks.

I usually reject these almost on principle, as hearing merely what people ‘think of’ something is of such little value… (compared to watching how they use it) and because the self-selecting group of people who will ever complete those surveys gives such a skewed view. Yes, it may be better than literally hearing nothing from your users, but that’s a pretty low bar. (Or it could be worse than nothing if it sends you off providing for the whims of the kinds of people who’ll fill in surveys.)

Why the Spanish tourist toilets?

It was a beautiful, quiet, Sunday morning when we visited Vejer de la Frontera. I’d recommend it.

A small downside was when we were in need of facilities and we went to find this tourist office.

They were closed.

We had to find somewhere else (a shady tumble-weed kind of bar where we bought ice lollies in return for relief).

But that experience of walking up to a closed door, pulling the handle, and not getting what you needed. And then looking around and thinking “oh, there’s no more information of what I can do now, and no-one to ask about it”.

That’s probably happening on your digital service.

So, like this tourist office on a Sunday morning (which I’ll accept may need to close sometimes!), you are often simply not around when people are having problems with your service.

And it’s not their job to find you to tell you about it.

You have to find ways to go and walk with them.