When you're designing a digital product, it's important to take your users into account. After all, your product has to fit a realistic context. Where does it go wrong? What do you have to keep in mind?
Do you remember the first part of this article? We told you more about digital monsters: a digital product that fails to support the primary goals and needs of its target users.
You also found out more about the shiny rainbow monsters. So now you know that forcing a popular technology or feature into a product isn't a good idea.
Ready for more? Get to know the ivory tower monsters: what happens when you don't take your users into account?
Ivory tower monsters: make the product fit a realistic context
Defining the context of a digital product is essential. The problem to solve might be clear, but a product does not exist in a vacuum and needs to fit its real-world context. If you don't keep this in mind, you might be creating an ivory tower monster.
There are 3 types of ivory tower monsters:
1. Organization centered monsters
You're creating the product with the organization in mind instead of the user. That is how organization centered monsters arise.
Think for example of a navigation structure that mirrors the internal structure, or giving a prominent place to content for/from/about an influential person/group within the organization.
2. Isolated and recycled monsters
These monsters are products that were designed without anticipating what is needed to make it work properly. After all, it takes more than just a good design.
What do isolated monsters look like? For instance, a contact form placed prominently without having the HR department to process the new load of contacts. Or an image-heavy UI for a CMS that becomes hard to use because the content team can't find suitable photos.
An example of a recycled monster would be using the same content for both an e-commerce site and printed folders.
3. Assumption monsters
Are your visitors having trouble finding a core page because they don't understand the title in the navigation? Are they not using your tablet app because they need it in a context where they only have 1 hand free? These monsters arise when you don't let real users validate the problem and/or solution.
How do these monsters harm?
Simple: you cannot craft a user experience without taking users into the equation.
May they be the end users, or the people involved in the whole user experience around your product (content creator, support, sales, partners, etc.), if you design the product in isolation, without taking them into account, it will most likely impede the experience.
All the pieces need to fit, not just the product.
How do you spot them?
If the project does not include user research, user validation, or requirement gathering with people in direct contact with users and/or content, then you should be on your guard!
It might sound obvious, but in the heat of a project, you can easily overlook such things. Excuses like “No time now, but we’ll check when it’s live.” or “I founded this company, I know perfectly what my users need.” might sound sensible but is like building an expensive sand castle.
How do you slay them?
Make a plan. Foresee the necessary time to make sure you have the required feedback from all key users. Explain to all stakeholder why you do it, and why it's a safe investment of time and money.
Do you have little time? Speak with fewer users or validate via online tools. But don’t scrape it off.
If stakeholders find the concepts of user research and user validation a bit too abstract to be valuable, make it concrete by planning moments to share results in a visualized way: quotes from users, a user journey, a service blueprint or a bullet point list or heatmap of usability issues. Anything that can help them connect with the reality of the product’s context.
An extra tip to conclude: as early as you can in the project, get real content. Your visual designs will be more realistic.