Can users be a source of chaos?

UX advocates argue that users should be at the center of every solution – and they’re right. After all, a carefully design solution will be useless if it’s not adopted by its targeted users. However, even in the best user-driven ecosystem, users will generate chaos. The reason is straightforward: it’s usually its most flexible component.

Your typical stakeholders often have a really strong opinion about what users want.  While some of their requirements might be legitimate, they are more often than not bad at understanding & getting to the essence of user needs.  They assume a lot of things about them, and can make you believe that this is what users actually want if you’re not careful.

However, when your process doesn’t work as they expect, when your app doesn’t have the feature they want or when your solution doesn’t cover their specific needs… users will adapt. In today’s organizations, the best symptom of this user-generated chaos is when spreadsheets appear in day-to-day activities. They are often the most flexible and accessible way for users to handle situations that your systems or processes cannot handle yet. When your customers start using things such as aggregator websites to compare their options, it may be a sign that your solutions aren’t meeting all their needs.

This user-driven chaos is inevitable until the whole ecosystem adapts. One way to speed up this adaptation and turn it into an advantage is by better knowing your users. That way, you can build more resilience into your processes and systems.

But what do you need to know about your users?

👷🐶👶 Who are they? How old are they? What’s their job? Do they have families? A dog? Many characteristics can explain why your users interact with you in different ways. For example, teens don’t use contactless payment the same way as grandparents.

🧠🤔❤ What’s their thinking style? How do they react in specific situations? What are their preferences when using your solutions? Your user behaviours and emotions can tell you a lot about their interactions with you. Just look at all the different ways people prefer to do their laundry.

🏖🏢🏡 Where are they when they interact with you? What are they doing at the same time? What’s happening around them? Your users’ contexts can introduce many variations in how they interact. Parents will cook meals for their family very differently on weekdays vs weekends, or before vs after a trip to the grocery.

Getting clarity on your users is a key step to making sense of chaos. Not only you will capture more accurate requirements, but you will also have better arguments to discuss with your stakeholders.  In the end, this will result in a better solution for both the users & the organizations.  But where should you start? What exactly should you be looking for? How can you use this knowledge to build more resilient processes and systems?  That’s where your expertise & toolbox comes into play.

And if you want to improve your own toolbox to better deal with users (and other stakeholders), you don’t want to miss my upcoming online courses.  Targeted at helping experts to make sense of this chaos, they will help you to stand out in today’s complex work environments.  Join the waiting list today!

Photo by Adam Whitlock on Unsplash

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Eric Provost

Making sense out of chaos as a BA & UX specialist

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