Simple Truths: It Takes All Kinds of Users

HeatherIn my work here as the Senior Director of User Insight I am a fan of what I like to refer to as “simple truths”. These are often lessons imparted to me earlier in life that appear in the context of our user experience work on behalf of some of the world’s biggest brands.  The simple truths make sense of some of the most complex issues our clients face. For example, there is an idiom that my mother once told me, “it takes all kinds to make a world.”

While attending the Falmouth Road Race in Falmouth, MA in August 1988, I commented to my Mother on someone whose running gear was enthusiastically Christmas themed, in the middle of August.  One of the runners had chosen to dress as Santa Claus for the race on that 90 degrees Cape Cod August day.  He was lining up against some of the world’s most accomplished 10K runners. I think my comment at the time was something along the lines of “Someone really likes Christmas”, and my Mother without skipping a beat said “It takes all kinds to make a world.”

So how do we help our clients take “their whole world of users” in to account in our research and strategy? Through the development of Personas and a more behavioral based approach to recruiting and research in general.  Our researchers do this by starting very broadly and high level in conversations with our clients’ users in their natural environment. In doing so they develop a level of trust quickly so that users want to share more of themselves than answering a series of binary questions.

As User Insight’s Clients often approach us to help them better understand their users and prospects I remember this idiom and the lesson I learned. It is really an important underpinning of our work to help clients understand that in order to better target, connect with, and satisfy their “world of users” that they have to employ both empathy and an open mind.

Empathy takes on many forms but in this instance it is the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another. We help our clients better understand their “whole world of users”  by putting them in a position to demonstrate to our clients their feelings, thoughts and attitudes towards the concept or user experience being tested.

It is fun and also complex work that our whole team is able to do everyday on behalf of some of the finest brands in the world. We work hard in pursuit of “why” each of our client’s customers do what they do, want what they want from our clients’ product or service.  When the complexity outweighs the fun, I remind myself to seek one of the simple truths.


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