UX tips: Know your customers and how to talk to them

UX tips: Know your customers and how to talk to them
Liz Parham
Liz ParhamLiz Parham UX

Posted: Mon 18th Jan 2021

The biggest mistake when looking for useful feedback from customers is to give them a walkthrough or try to explain how your website works.

The second biggest mistake is to try to correct their thinking. The most useful thing to do is listen to your customers and reflect on what they've said. Then make any adjustments; the ones that also support your business goals.

If your website is giving the wrong impression, fix the website then review again.

If you're not sure where to start but you know people are dropping off at a certain point, you might be able to establish the reason why by getting a customer to go through the same process - whether information gathering, making a purchase, or whatever it might be - while they think out loud and you observe.

You will draw conclusions from the things they say, what they click on, what they understand, and what they don't appear to even see. It will be very revealing.

Repeat this with three to four people separately, avoid the urge to explain or instruct, unless they get really stuck of course, and encourage and remind them to think out loud.

This can all be done in a 40-minute Zoom call. The format is a semi-structured interview or test with users. The specific tasks and focus provide the structure. Some room is left to go with the flow.

Behaviour, not preferences

Avoid asking for opinions such as "Which do you like more, this one or that?" Try instead "What are you thinking?"

Avoid projecting emotions such as "I see you're confused", but rather ask how they are feeling, or what they meant when they said "Oh, I see."

Avoid hypotheticals for their future selves or asking them what others would do. Try and stick to what they actually do, whether using your product or website, or what they have used in the past and why.

Context really is everything

An important aspect often overlooked is the context-of-use. Customers' focus and attention naturally make a huge difference to the success of your website and the ability to find the right information when required.

The more you know about the type of device they use, where and when they will use it and what is going on around them at the time, the better informed your design decisions will be about where to place things, what to prioritise and the amount of information that is suitable.

Imagine a symptoms checker for common childhood illnesses versus finding a hairdresser that has availability this week.

Are the users in the first case likely to be with a poorly child? How will that make them feel? Think of the urgency, as well as the level of divided attention.

What is a person looking for a hairdresser needing to see immediately to not dismiss your salon as a possible candidate? Is it the type of hair, location, price list or parking? Is it the photos reflecting a specific type of person?

Whatever your line of business, putting yourself in the shoes of the client will help you know what's important, and the more this is based on reality, the more useful it will be.

These conversations and changes are iterative, so may never really be finished but the scope can move on. Keeping an up-to-date website can be made simpler by scheduling periodic user feedback sessions as well as the time required to test and update it.

What gaps are there in your knowledge of your website? Who can you find to book a little time with this week?

Relevant resources

Liz Parham
Liz ParhamLiz Parham UX
MSc E-commerce graduate, specialist in user experience (UX) and user research. My name is Liz and I have worked in UX (user experience) and user research for well over a decade where I’ve seen many companies struggle to apply the UX books and blog posts they found compelling to their own products and customers.  With my experience, I am able to see what the fundamentals were and how to adapt them to different contexts and cases. As a hugely passionate proponent of user-centred techniques for product development, I would love more companies to be able to do so too. If you can identify with wading through dozens of UX books, webinars and blog posts wondering where to start, or maybe you're new to UX but also want to end the endless tinkering of your interface, let's talk and see how I might be able to help you get results!

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