The art of listening is critical for product managers to understand user needs and create products that connect with the largest possible audience. This is especially critical for developing user experiences that truly connect with user needs. Steve Portigal, Founder of Portigal Consulting, shares his experience with analyzing user research to connect with customers more effectively.
User Experience: Listening To Others
When I wrote a book called Interviewing Users, I focused on four principles for creating an effective user experience. In addition, I talk about how to act on these principles. To me, the most important statement to think about is “leaving your worldview at the door.”
In order to learn from other people, you have to set your own views to the side. However, this is much easier said than done. For example, there are many benefits to having a strong point of view. You’re able to advocate for colleagues or champion a cause that makes a difference. Typically, we are rewarded for doing so. As a result, the prospect of setting your views aside can be daunting.
I’m not suggesting that you abandon everything that you stand for – but rather to put it in place when speaking with others. In other words, you don’t want your worldview to hamper your ability to listen to your target audience. One trick that I recommend using is to set expectations before you talk to customers.
For instance, you set up a group to talk through user experience scenarios that customers will address. This is not a formal ideation process that requires hypotheses or documenting outcomes. Instead, it’s an informal conversation that allows you to clear the air on biases that you hold.
In the process of doing so, you’re able to free your mind from preconceptions and engage with active listening before you meet with customers. You’ll hear things that will challenge you or provide surprises that will allow you to approach customers with an open mind.
Ultimately, an effective user experience must be a reflection of what your customers need. As product managers, we need to be open to new ideas and respond to what the world is asking us to solve. Many of these insights will challenge us personally, but it’s the best way to learn and design experiences that connect with more people.
About the speaker
Steve Portigal is a consultant who helps companies to think and act strategically when innovating with user insights. Over the past 20 years, he has interviewed hundreds of people, including families eating breakfast, hotel maintenance staff, architects, radiologists, home-automation enthusiasts, credit-default swap traders, and rock musicians. His work has informed the development of mobile devices, medical information systems, music gear, wine packaging, financial services, corporate intranets, videoconferencing systems, and music accessories.