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Last updated on 11/20/23

Consider the User

It's important to understand who your users are before you start designing for them. You can accomplish this through research and discovery (which will be covered in more detail in later courses). Move past assumptions and pre-existing ideas to develop and test solutions with users in mind. 

Nielsen Norman Group: UX without U[sers] means you are not practicing UX. [2:27 min]

You are not the user

When designing, it is important to remember that you are not the user. The target audience can have a different understanding of the product, skill level, and motivations. All of these factors must be taken into consideration when designing for users. It's important to talk to users.

Designers are not users with Jakob Nielsen [2:13 min]

Understanding users

If you don't test or question what users say they want, you could end up spending a lot of time, energy, and budget only to find that they aren't interested in the feature after all.

It's important to understand and clarify your user in order to know what their problems are, eliminate incorrect assumptions, and align team members. Research helps ensure that energy and resources are put in the right places. You'll save time and money if you continually communicate with users and validate ideas.

The five W's (and an 'h'!) are a good way figure out what is known about users. Consider the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW:

  • Who are your users? Demographic? Cultural influences? Education? Professional situation?

  • What are their habits? Are they on social media? Relationship to technology? Early or late adopters?

  • Where are they accessing information? Home? Work? Public setting? Remotely? On the go? Distracted?

  • When are they checking? Frequently? Routinely? Occasionally? Time of day?

  • Why are they checking? Addiction? Special occasion? Emergency?

  • How are they accessing? Mobile? Tablet? Desktop? Laptop? Fast/slow internet connection?

Designing for a student versus a grandparent is going to guarantee a different result. When you're designing with users in mind, things that may not seem important initially– like type size, button placement or color – will become crucial to the user experience.

User stories

User stories are one way to make sure that you're focusing projects around the user. They're short, one sentence statements which address the user's point of view, what they hope to do (goal), and how something can help. 

Considerations for writing user stories include:

  • Who is the person you are designing for (user)?

  • What is problem that needs solving/behavior to address?

  • What is the feeling or belief associated?

  • What is the context?

 User stories can be framed in many different ways, but to start we'll stick with the Nielsen Norman Group formula:

As a [type of user], I want to [goal], so that [benefit].

Imagine that your team wants to know more about the habits of freelancers. As you start to talk to some people who fit that demographic, some user stories start to emerge and you could fill in the blanks and say:

"As a freelancer who works from home, I want to be able to minimize distractions, so that I can get my work done early."


"As someone who works from home, I want to have to leave the house everyday, so that I make sure I stay healthy (both mentally and physically)."


"As someone who rents a desk in a co-working space, I want to limit the amount of extra noise, so that I can focus better."

Fill in the blanks and come up with 3-5 user stories. 

Writing stories from the perspective of the user helps ensure that you're designing for the user, and not for yourself. Read more about how the Interaction Design Foundation approaches user stories

Usability testing

Usability testing is a way to involve users throughout the design process by testing concepts, prototypes and feature updates on actual users rather, than imaging how something will work. The role of the person who is facilitating the usability testing is to ask open-ended questions, to focus on listening, to watch the user's behavior to learn how the product can further be improved. The reality is, what's obvious to you may not be so clear and easy for others. That's why you test.

The other thing to keep in mind is that designers won't be present each time a user tries their product, so it is important to understand their behaviors early in the process when no one is there to guide them.

Repeat: I am not the user.

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