Designing with the user, for the user

11 Jan

Today in a meeting, our team was explaining our approach to digital product design for learning.
One of the phrases that came up was:

“We design with the user, for the user.”

That’s what I try to do. It’s one way to make really useful stuff that people want to engage with. Everything we do is in service of providing something useful, timely and relevant that helps to improve performance or improve an experience.

I know user-centred design has been around for ages, but in some organisations the user can often be an afterthought. I wanted to share this in the hope that it might help somebody who’s trying to get folk on board with this approach, in the spirit of one of my favourite ads of all time…


In the meeting, we were asked:

“How do you know what you make will be useful? Why would someone use your product?”
This resulted in a chat about communication, analytics, testing and signposting, which is something for another blog post. It’s worth mentioning though, as my colleague Charlie Kneen made a good point that if a product adds value for the person using it, they will use it (providing they know it’s there & it fits into their life).

If you’ve designed your product in collaboration with the end user and you’re asking the right questions along the way, then chances are, you’re on the right lines.

So, how do you design with the user, for the user? I find one of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is to use the Concern Task Resource model, created by Nick Shackleton-Jones. In a nutshell, this asks us to:

  1. Find out what the user’s concern is. What – on an emotional level – is important to them?
  2. Find out which tasks the user has to do. What are they doing every day and in what environment? What tech do they have access to? How are they doing their job at the moment?
  3. Use the findings from these two discovery sessions to plan out what kinds of resources might be useful in addressing these concerns to get tasks done, and improve performance. Develop these resources and keeping checking back with your users to find out if they’re useful. If they’re not; change them.

You can read more about the Concern Task Resource model here, on Nick’s blog.

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2 Responses to “Designing with the user, for the user”

  1. Nick Welch February 8, 2016 at 9:34 am #

    It seems like there’s a big shift in the learning industry and it comes in 2 phases. Firstly users will replace learning outcomes and thank goodness. Forget trying to assume what people want to learn – go and ask people. Secondly the technology. Forget designing stuff in automated programs and just give people technology that they use daily – blogs, apps, facebook. The answers are with users and not just stakeholders. The power is in user research and not stakeholder meetings.

    • GemStGem February 10, 2016 at 8:24 am #

      Yes Nick! Totally agree. Great point about looking to users for answers.

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