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Tools for exploring users

  • Resources for the Design Challenge

    Before making anything, it’s useful to identify who our actual users are, and collect observations on the topic. Observing a target audience and understanding the current market can help identify numerous problems, and create something more impactful by solving one of the larger pain points. This ensures people actually use what you create since it makes their lives better - otherwise, why work on it at all?

    There are many tools that can help us understand potential users, but let’s start with 3:

    1. Empathy maps
    2. User Personas
    3. Journey Maps.

    These are tools often used in the design processes of larger teams, so it’s not essential for us as solo creators to spend too long on them. However, exploring these for just an hour or so can massively change the direction of our end product for the better.

    1. 🤗 Empathy Maps

    Understanding what our potential users think, feel, say and do can better identify the problems they have, and the type of product they would use. An empathy map helps us do this by mapping out these user attributes (thinks, feels, says, and does) in a quadrant as shown below:

    Empathy maps should ideally be based on research of a problem area, but it’s not always possible - especially in our case.

    Outcome :
    A quick picture and better focus of the people who will use your app (as opposed to diving into the solution).

    Useful resources:

    Downloadable templates:

    2. 👤 Personas

    Personas are a fictional characters that represent your real users, highlighting things such as:

    • personal profile: age, gender, location
    • motivations, goals and frustrations
    • responsibilities and technical ability

    They’re most effective if based on real research, and can be improved with the outcomes created from empathy maps.

    Here’s an example:

    Helps to keep our users the focus of our product, whilst also preventing us from designing for just ourselves.

    To find out more detail on how to make a persona, follow these resource:

    Downloadable Templates:

    3. 🚗 Journey Mapping

    Based upon empathy maps and personas, we can then create journey maps of our users. This is a diagram with the different steps a user takes through time in a given scenario. It also captures what a user is thinking and feeling along the way. Here’s an example (from Harry Brignull) :

    This gives us an overview of our user’s painpoints and motivations at every step of their journey, allowing us to see where the biggest design opportunities lie.


    Downloadable Template:

    Let me know if you have any questions. 🙂 Next I'll add some resources on idea generation, prototyping and gathering feedback from our prototypes.

  • Prototyper

    @Graeme These were very helpful. They helped me focus on my potential users, and what they need from my app. Then I was a bit stuck trying to figure out hoe to move forward. What are the next steps to take to transition from this to features and roadmap for my project. However your subsequent article about user story mapping was the key for me. Your own personal example for Imposter Cat helped a little, but I needed to research more about user story mapping on my own beyond the links you provided.


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