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How to determine user needs and client needs

Zarmeen Zehra

Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

Before designing an interface, it is imperative to determine the needs of the usersThe visitors who will access the interface. and clientsThe stakeholders who hire designers to design the interface. of an interface. A designer must tailor the interface according to the requirements specified by the users and clients. These requirements aren't always straightforward. The designer has to perform some procedures to discover the needs of both clients and users of the interface.

How to determine user needs

To establish user needs, the interface designer must determine the actual and potential users. For this purpose, a designer must create user profiles. User profiles describe the users and their characteristics in terms of interface design. This information is then used to establish user requirements around which the interface design will be shaped.

The following sequence of steps is followed to create user profiles and determine user needs:

1. Determine user categories

User categories divide the identified users into groups according to their types. For example, a learning management system will have faculty members and students as the user categories.

2. Determine user characteristics

In this step, the designer decides the characteristics relevant to the interface design. These are categorized as the following:

  • Psychological characteristics, for example, attitude and motivation.
  • Knowledge and experience, for example, typing skills.
  • Job and task characteristics include frequency of use and task structure.
  • Physical characteristics, for example, color blindness.

3. Choose a method

Questionnaires and interviews are the most common methods used for eliciting user needs. Questions in any chosen methods are tailored according to the user characteristics previously identified. Questions related to identifying user categories are also included, such as asking users of a learning management system if they are students or faculty members.

4. Select a sample

The user sample is recruited and approached. Appropriate sample size is necessary to achieve unbiased results.

5. Conduct the research

The questionnaire or interview is conducted accordingly. It is essential to provide a brief introduction or cover letter to let the users know what they have signed up for and how long it will take.

6. Data entry and analysis

The data gathered through the research is documented as a percentage of responses for each question. This step is vital to analyze the data quantitatively with a glance. An example of data entry may look like the following:


Q1. Are you color-blind?


Respondents

Yes

No

1

1


2


1

3


1

Sum

1

2

Percentage

33

67

7. Summarize data

The data summary groups the information according to the responses of each category. This step will help the designer determine requirements category-wise and prioritize them. A sample data summary might look like the following:


User category: Student


Q1. Color-blind

No. of respondents

Percentage

Yes

5

62.5

No

3

37.5

8. Evaluate results

The data summary is used to elicit the requirements according to user categories. A table like the one below can help prioritize which needs are more important for each category. Here, a cross indicates the importance of the requirement, with more crosses meaning a more critical requirement.


Ease of use

Ease of learning

Use of icons

Color vision deficit

Student

X


XX

XX

Faculty member

X

XX

X


How to determine client needs

Clients are usually more readily available to let the designer know their needs. However, most of the time, clients are themselves not so sure about what they need. Sometimes the requirements they communicate are too broad or narrow. Such situations are avoided by using an elicitation method to draw out the client's needs. The following are examples of elicitation techniques:

Interviews

Interviews are the most straightforward way to obtain information from clients. Questions regarding the interface design can be asked directly and discussed. The interviewer can draw relevant conclusions regarding the requirements according to the responses.

Focus groups

Focus groups refer to guided discussions regarding the interface design with the stakeholders. This method is proper when there are several stakeholders whose opinions matter. Sometimes, the clients may have differing views about particular needs in focus groups. In such cases, repertory grids like the one below can be used to prioritize the client and their requirements. Here, a scale between 1 to 5 is used to prioritize the needs, with one being the lowest and five the highest.


Stakeholder 1

Stakeholder 2

Stakeholder 3

Ease of use

1

1

5

Security

4

4

4

Reliability

5

2

3

Brainstorming

In brainstorming, the designers and clients sit together and discuss multiple ideas for the interface. The best idea can then be approved and chosen. This technique is used when the clients are unaware of what they want and want to come up with new solutions.

Prototyping

A prototype is a working model which represents the final proposed solution. When needs are unclear, the designer can model a clickable prototype and show it to the client. The client can then approve or disapprove the prototype according to whether it matches their needs and preferences.

RELATED TAGS

ui/ux
interface design

CONTRIBUTOR

Zarmeen Zehra
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Grokking Modern System Design Interview for Engineers & Managers

Ace your System Design Interview and take your career to the next level. Learn to handle the design of applications like Netflix, Quora, Facebook, Uber, and many more in a 45-min interview. Learn the RESHADED framework for architecting web-scale applications by determining requirements, constraints, and assumptions before diving into a step-by-step design process.

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