Time to read: 5 minutes.
Every time I work with a client and we do any research or profiling on how customers use their product or service, what people think about it and what their users need and expect from it, the client always comes away with a big ol’ sackfull of insightful items that they had not even considered.
When I say “users” I’m talking about your audience. The people who visit your website, see your brand identity, read your content, refer you to their friends, talk about you down the pub… You get the idea.
Some people will call this their target market or target audience (although “target” suggests that this is a group of users you’re aiming for ideally). Some call users their audience, some prefer the term customers or potential customers.
Whatever you call them, they exist, they are real, and they are not to be ignored, under any circumstances.
The biggest mistake you can make
The biggest mistake you can make, when you embark upon any project related to your business is to forget, or worse, ignore your users.
Putting your own goals and requirements ahead of those of your customers is one of the fastest ways to a failed business.
What are you doing wrong?
Many people make the mistake of assuming they know the user already, and know what’s best for them.
You do not know your users as well as you think.
Many companies also assume that if they can create a successful (AKA profitable) business through pursuing their own goals and achievements, that customers will come to them.
Perhaps it was once true that if you created a decent enough product or service and blasted your advertising out on the TV or in the other media you could generate sizeable custom, but in this day and age it’s not so.
Your potential customers are far more discerning than you think, and you will almost always have to compete for their attention or custom.
If some other company or service is able to provide what your potential customers want in a more efficient way, or in a way which is more sympathetic to the customer’s needs, then you know where they’re going to go!
Why do your users matter?
Your users are the people who determine the success of your business. Without them your product or service is almost non-existent.
Your users buy your products or employ your services. They are the people spending their hard-earned money on what you have to offer.
If you can delight your users or make sure they don’t run into any issues (by addressing their needs and desires) then they may also even bring you additional income via referrals.
Why would you put such a vital source of income anywhere other than first, when it comes to priorities?
Why you don’t really matter
First of all, it’s unlikely that you are going to be an avid user of your own product or service.
And even if you are, you are not in the same position as your users. You already know how good your product is, you already know why you need your services, but you also have the ability to perform or access those products and services, so it makes no sense to equate you and your user.
You and your user are worlds apart through situation alone.
Take accounting for example. You provide accountancy services. You understand the value of them, and you also do your own accounting (because you need to and you can).
Your user is not an accountant, does not necessarily understand the value of having one and also most likely hates doing their own accounting. They do, still however have to do their accounting regardless.
There is a clear-cut difference between you and your user - despite both needing accountancy services.
Now, don’t get me wrong. You do matter. Just not as much as your user. Not even close.
Even your business goals, desires and requirements need to come second place. (Unless of course your only business goal is to put the user first. Get your head around that!)
Yes, there needs to be a balance between these two worlds. Business goals are important for the growth and development of a company, but if that company did not have any users, would those goals still matter?
How can you avoid mistakes and put users first?
It is surprisingly easy to put users first.
You should have your audience in mind at all times, but more importantly you need to define them as soon as possible.
The more you can do to define your audience, and the types of people you are specifically targetting, the more you can cater to their expectations and requirements.
Detailed user profiling and creating persona documents are commonly accepted methods for this, and they do two great things.
First, they force you to think very specifically about your audience.
Secondly, they provide a vital reference at all stages of the process.
The other wonderful thing you can do if you have any sort of existing audience is speak to them.
Contact them, chat to them, email them, call them, ask them how they feel. Connect with your audience and find out precisely what they think of your company. What do they expect from you and are there things you can improve?
Even just these two things (user profiles and user research) at a very low-level (I’m not talking massive workshops or teams surveying people in the streets - you can do this stuff with email) will provide immesurable value to your business and process.
The more information you have about your users (or target audience) the better.
Then, at every point in the process where you make a decision, however small and insignificant, you can say “does this matter to our users?”.
Every. Single. Decision.
- “Is this important to our users?”
- “Why do our customers need this?”
- “Will this make our audience’s life easier?”
That’s how you put users first. Profile them, then question everything from their point of view.
Forget about what you want
At least just for a minute.
Putting your users front and center of any project is going to work wonders for your process and for your outcomes.
Ignoring your users or forgetting about them at any point is where you will start to go wrong.
Don’t make that mistake.