How do we know what the user wants

I would like to discuss various ways to determine what the user actually wants as opposed to working from the preconceived ideas of the stake holder or others involved in the site or application development.

Comments

I like the idea of coming up with good patterns for user needs discovery. This could even be broken out into multiple focused sessions: requirements gathering, usability testing, focus group-ing, in-production end user feedback strategies, maybe more.

I agree that this would be an interesting topic to explore further. The end goal of a practical and successful user experience too often gets overruled by design by committee. Navigating institutional politics is a realistic challenge that can often be overlooked.

If we understand the problem or opportunity we are solving for. If we scope the work appropriately, and if we have analysts that engage not just the stakeholders or committees but the actual system users we have a chance of creating a good user experience.

The job of the analyst is to understand the problem, the business domain, the business requirements and the needs of all stakeholders and users. There are a number of proven techniques an analyst can use to capture the user requirements and this process along with the associated artifacts enable the team (development, testing, stakeholders, users, etc...) to create a solution that enable all system users to accomplish their goals.

For example, an analyst can identify user classes (groups of users that may use a system differently to accomplish their specific goals) and find champions within each user class. These champions collect information and feedback from the users and the champions provide the analyst with the user requirements. This analysis includes prioritization (the most widely used/important features vs. the nice to have/ infrequently used features) and defining quality attributes to the business/user needs.

It is not magic; there are a number of proven techniques one can use to ensure a great user experience. The key is in the analysis, the engagement of users and stakeholders and the requirements. The essential requirements are typically fall under the requirement category of usability requirements.