Determining your users

Understanding your target users

User understanding

    • Helps ensure the way you sell you good reflects the ways people want to buy them (not what’s easiest for the business)

Improves stickiness (how effective an experience is in keeping users within it or getting them to return to it – compelling, interesting, engaging, relevant, meaningful content, useful tools, easy to navigate and use

Core steps to understanding your user

  • Gathering data – on known and new users
  • Analysis – look for similarities and difference in user types
  • User profiling – developing a baseline profile of each user type
  • Prioritising users – identifying the most important user types for your design
  • Persona creation – designing a compelling portrait of your target user for use within project team

User experience v customer experience

  • Not all of your target users are customers
  • Mostly you will design experiences for existing customers and prospective customers
  • Designing purely customer experience caters only to existing customers
  • You might not be selling anything i.e. no customers e.g. non-profit organisation where you provide information, or internal users digital experience
  • User experience – focuses on the how of using a product, how a user behaves e.g. interacting with a website
  • Marketing and branding approaches focus often on who target consumers are (via demographic studies)
  • Customer experience often refers to all types of interactions with a brand – digital , via phone, in person – whereas UX often refers to digital experiences

Gathering data

Consolidate and review – secondary research

Existing research materials

  • Market research – user analysis, user preferences, purchasing patterns, industry trends – anything that indicates consumer or user patterns
  • Customer segmentation – existing framework for understanding customer types, typically used by sales and marketing, broken down into shared characteristics (age, geographical, gender, economic income bracket)
  • User feedback – form, survey, call centre, customer service agent
  • Sales and customer service teams

Website analytics

  • This helps you evaluate the current effectiveness of the website/app (which pages are most used etc) but doesn’t help tell you about the actual user or why the user is viewing that content or taking that pathway (user needs)
  • User submitted information e.g. on Facebook where users have provided their info – this gives insights into the demographics e.g. age groups but be careful about making broad interpretations about your users based on a limited data set

Questions to ask about the data

  • How old is the data, have your users changed since it was done?
  • Has your business evolved or changed because this can affect how customers perceive and interact with you?
  • Has technology evolved your experiences – with increased tech user may interact with your experiences differently from before – and user behaviours may have changed too?
  • Does the data cover the type of customer you are targeting? – if you are targeting a different type of customer from your existing type you consider how different they are and whether you need more info on them?
  • How easy is it to extract insight? – is the data in a form which is easy to digest, can you manipulate it easily during the analysis process
  • Does it inspire you? Does the data paint a persuasive picture of your target user – a real person with needs and pain points. Does it inspire the team to design new product, content, functionality, experiences
  • Do we have to do primary research?

Online surveys

  • Polling current users can provide insights – what works what doesn’t
  • Can generate larger sample sized but depth of topics that can be explored is limited
    Tools – zoomerang, survey monkey

User interviews

  • One on one interview, often using the current website/app
  • Highly qualitative but effective in UX design

Focus groups

  • Group of targeted users brought together for guided conversation.
  • Less used in UX design as difficult to get a group to simultaneously navigate a UX solution as opposed to an individual
  • More effective at exploring whether a bigger idea in an advert or branding is successful or not

Ethnography and contextual inquiry

  • Observe users in their natural environments
  • Can be inspiring but is time consuming
  • Example: UX solution focused on holiday planning, you go into a target users home and watch them plan their holiday – where they plan, what info they consult etc.
  • Can generate additional insights beyond what’s revealed in a standard interview.

Analysing the data to create user profiles

Objective of analysis is to identify grouping of users with core similarities. Also look for differences.


  • What does the user need?
  • Can be context based – e.g. gift shop owner understand that shoppers on Xmas eve will have a specific set of behaviours compared to shopper say in the summer holiday season


  • What does the user want – in addition to basic needs the user has key desires he wants to fulfil
  • Example – husband buying anniversary present for wife looking for ‘the perfect gift’ so understanding the user may mean you personalise the wrapping

Pain points – Common problems associated with accomplishing a key task for a target user.

Consideration when organising groupings

Profit – which user type generates the most revenue and profit for the business – and within that group are there any meaningful differences?
Costs to serve

  • Who costs the business the most money to support?
    Could costs be reduced for these types by providing a self service type of experience
  • Example: holiday makers for an airline make up the majority of users but book in advance to save money. They may need more assistance and have special needs so are less profitable and more costly to serve. Self service might be ideal.

Complexity of needs – Who has the most complex needs compared to those users with more basic needs. Identify these ‘power users’.

Why is behavioural segmentation so critical?

Audience / Market segmentation – historically based on demographics (age, gender, income, location etc)
Attitudinal / Behavioural segmentation – more recent method, how a user behaves and interacts with the service/product as opposed to who they are. Example insurance companies segments ‘Recent retirees’ (demographic) or ‘Agent loyalists’ (behaviour based – those who use the service primarily through agents.

Putting the data into action

Example – e-commerce site selling tickets for Broadway shows

Initial discovery process

  • Behaviour – suggested users come to site, browse for dates, choose seats, then purchase tickets
  • Need – clear and simple browse path and payment process

Deeper discovery
Two key groups

  • Tourists – want lots of info on the show, the plot, photos, child suitable, locations etc
  • Locals – tend to get base show info from other media (TV, news, newspaper reviews) and want to focus primarily on ticketing of seats.

Final discovery

Four user types – user profiles and potential features

Example 2 – bank website redesign
Original user segmentation – defined by core product lines (home mortgage seekers, home equity seekers, reverse mortgage seekers)

Updated user segmentation – defined by behaviours, desires and pain points so the bank could better understand which product would be best for them rather than being solely focused.

  • Home buyer – first or second home mortgage
  • Rate reducer – reduce payments via lower rate mortgage refinancing
  • Equity seeker – looking to take equity via home equity loan or refinancing to a new mortgage
  • Retiree – similar goals to equity seeker but specific needs of customer nearing retirement and specific requirements of the reverse mortgage products

Prioritising who’s the most important

Goal – simplify design choices, which features to include and which to exclude, and to guide how those those feature are designed and brought to life.

Why prioritise user segments

  • You need the segments that are MOST useful to the design process
  • Identify one or two types of user whose want and needs may be shared by most other users

E-commerce Broadway ticketing example – 2 key types
Which users have the most significant needs?
Tourists – wanted a number of features to help decide which show might best meet their needs. Guidance on shows was a critical area of content and functionality. These needs were also shared by Occasional Theatregoer and Urban Frequent
Theatre Lover – represented significant amount of traffic and required different needs – advanced features

By meeting the needs of both types they would cover the needs of the other types.

Bringing users to life through personas

  • Personas are an illustration of the a user profile – a user profile has a name, a face and a backstory, like real people with wants, needs and challenges
  • Goal of personas – to make a user profile inspiring, compelling and believable
  • Although user profiles and personas contain the same data point, user profiles contain dry sterile info presented as bullets

Using personas

Keep visible to help team stay focused on their customers (or potential customers)

What should a persona contain?

Keep them simple, it needs to differentiate that persona from one of the other personas
Name – helps team remember who they are designing for – real people
Photo – google, flickr etc royalty free pics, puts a face to the name
Quote – One sentence quote to give the persona a true voice
Basic demographics – relevant information, contextual to the problem and the product
Customer segmentation – does it map to other models of customers within the business?
Key needs/goals – key needs and behaviours, how do they accomplish relevant tasks, how are they trying to solve the problem
Key pain points – problems he has achieving his goals, what challenges them cause pain/frustration
Brand affinities – what relevant brands do they purchase, helps to identify him in context of competitors
Technology profile – what do they use, laptop, mobile, tablet, how computer savvy are they – this helps you design solution that meet the profile and leverage all appropriate channels
General description – a couple of sentences about them

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