Felix Schittig

User:inside centering - What does my target group want?

I'm continuing with my series on the topic of "User centricity". In part 1, I explain why we put the user in the focus of development. But who are my users? And what parameters do I need to consider when developing my product to perfectly match it to my target group?

Research – How do I get to know my users?

Before I can target something at a user, I have to know that user, of course. We have to find out who our users are. Is there something that unites my target group or sets it apart from others?

Depending on the nature of the project, there are suitable methods for getting to know the needs of its users. These include, for example:

  • Market and industry analysis
    In which market will the product exist? Trends and competitors, potential opportunities and challenges are analyzed.
  • Desk Research
    Information about a target group can be excellently gathered from publicly available data and sources. Various platforms offer studies, surveys, reports, articles and statistics.
  • Surveys
    Just ask! Online surveys or questionnaires ask targeted questions to potential users.
  • Social media analysis
    Investigate and monitor social media to understand what is being discussed and shared in the relevant target audience and what opinions they are expressing.
  • Google Analytics and Web Analytics
    Using web analytics to track the behavior of users on the (current) website or in an app and gain insights into who the users are.
  • Personas
    Based on the collected data, fictitious "personas" can be created that represent typical representatives of the target group. These help to better understand the target group and adjust the marketing and product strategy accordingly.

User value: Solve a problem … that no one knows about (yet).

Another important factor for the perfect user experience is the user value of the product. It increases the satisfaction of the users and is decisive for a long-term and trusting relationship. On this subject, there is the well-known analogous example of a fast-food chain selling milkshakes:

In-depth market research revealed that most milkshake buyers were commuters on their way to work. They weren't very hungry early in the morning, so they wanted a milkshake rather than something solid. In addition, milkshakes don't crumble, they can be consumed with one hand, and you get something out of it for a while – so it also helps against boredom while commuting.

So the user value is sometimes in a different place than a supplier might initially suspect. With this knowledge, it is much easier to optimize the product and find out which products really compete with it in the eyes of the users. With digital products, user value is often easy to scale – successful digital products tend to have radical value propositions:

Let's take a look back to 2004, when FreeMail services such as web.de had a free storage space of 12 MB. On April 1, 2004, Gmail went online – with 1 GB of free storage. At first, people thought it was an April Fools joke, but six months later, everyone had to follow suit. The promise is simple: never delete or sort mail again. Instead, mails will be as easily and quickly searchable as the Web.

If we manage to offer the user such greater utility than the competition, we virtually program marketing into the product.

Service-Dominant Logic. The value of service.

Closely linked to user-centeredness is the view of products as service packages. In the Product-Dominated Logic, the product already has its full value at the time of purchase, because this value is derived from production, marketing, logistics, etc. In the Service-Dominant Logic, the value of the service is the product.

In Service-Dominant Logic (SDL), on the other hand, the physical product is only the distribution mechanism, and the value of the product is only completed by the associated services. Apple has set the bar here with its smooth integration of hardware and software, such as in the iPhone. A software layer that is easy to use thus plays a key role in defining the product's user value and decisively shapes the user experience.

Taking this further, SDL even emphasizes services as the main source of value – detached from a hardware product. Customers and providers network resources, create value together, emphasize customer value, view services as processes, and cultivate long-term relationships. This approach shifts the focus from products to customer-centric, co-creative service experiences. And again, the user is the focus.

Co-creation: Everyone participates. 

Speaking of co-creation, it is worth taking a closer look. The value of a product equals zero without the participation of the user – and the type of participation is crucial. This is called co-creation. This concept is closely related to that of user centricity.

If we manage to involve the user in the product process, we can provide a more personalized user experience and more relevant content, as products and services can be better targeted to needs and desires. This starts with the active involvement of future users in the creation process and extends to user-generated content in social media.

In the digital world, value is often generated by the users themselves. It is created through interaction between providers and users. The latter are actively involved in the design of services and the creation of value. This means that the experience and the individual needs of the users are central.

In the pre-PC era, users were mostly pure consumers, such as in linear television. In many successful digital platforms, they now consciously or unconsciously take influence onwhat they see.

For example, search results on Google are individualized on the basis of personal search history, or viewing behavior on Netflix or other streaming services is documented and guided.

Facebook leaves the complete creation of content to its users; a user thus creates the value of the platform for others.

Casualness. Interact naturally. 

Casualness refers to the approach of making digital products as low-threshold as possible and with as few obstacles as possible, so that the user is convinced when casually trying them out. The usage experience should be as casual and informal as possible, mimicking more natural, everyday interaction.

The purpose of casualness is to increase usability and accessibility by creating a relaxed and familiar environment where the users feel comfortable interacting with the product in a natural way.

This development is reflected in the designs and processes of interactive products, but also in their language. In web stores, for example, friendly, informal language creates a casual atmosphere, which in turn leads to higher levels of interaction: from "Take a look at our seating here and buy directly in the store!" to "Discover your new favorite chair now!" or "You might also like this".

A pioneer in casualness was "doodle", which quickly established itself as a tool for organizing appointment suggestions. The user usually comes into contact with it for the first time when he or she is asked by someone to enter his or her availability there. The new user does not have to register or anything like that, but can simply click on yes or no for each appointment, enter his or her name and that's it. So he or she becomes a doodle user in no time.

Now I know what my target group wants - but where do I go from here?

We now know which factors make up a user-friendly digital product. But how can I integrate these into the implementation, what do I have to pay attention to and how can I design my work processes? I'll tell you in the next article.