Understanding Your Audience

Before diving into the design process, the first step is understanding your audience. Your entire design should revolve around who will be using your product or service.

Several aspects, including user expectations, demands, behaviours, and even the level of tech-savviness, play an influential role in shaping an effective user experience.

Start by identifying your target users. Market segmentation can help narrow this down, dividing your audience into groups based on various factors, including demographics, geographical locations, behavioural patterns, and interests.

The next step is conducting user research. This involves gathering data about the potential users and their needs.

Several methods exist for user research including surveys, interviews, user testing, and analysing usage data.

Feedback from real users is invaluable. It enables you to understand their perspectives, uncover their pain points, and identify their wants and needs.

Depending on the stage of your product development, the type of user research you should typically be conducting will vary.

An example of different user research techniques at different stages of your project

After gathering this information, you can create user personas, fictional representations of your user segments, to help personalise your design approach.

User personas provide insights into user's motivations and behaviours allowing you to design an experience that caters directly to their needs.

My advice is that you don’t spend too long fixated on creating the perfect persona - and actually create a very lightweight version. The common mistakes I find when people spend forever on a persona are:

  1. They focus too much on irrelevant details about their persona (if you’re building a language-learning app, you don’t need to include information about how often the persona plays tennis, for example).
  2. The personas are too specific (often caused by only speaking to a few target users).
  3. People don’t know when to move on from persona design.

Realistically, personas are a method to communicate things you’ve learned about your target audience back to yourself and others. While they are useful, if you’re an indie founder you will have memorised a lot of this information anyway during the process of user research, so creating complex personas will only be a waste of your time.

An example of a lightweight persona about a designer

An impressive user experience does not force users to adjust to it. Instead, it moulds itself to the user's needs. And to successfully do this, you need to understand who you’re building for, and what they need.

Storyboarding can be a helpful exercise for this.

Storyboarding tells the story of a user's journey and how they interact with your product. As an indie founder, this process helps you see your product from the user's perspective, recognise pain points, and enhance the overall user experience.

While creating a storyboard, think about the user's needs, emotions, and tasks in each frame. This will help you to better understand their journey and optimise your design later on.

Tools like Storyboard That, Google Slides or PowerPoint can aid this process, providing you with simple drag-and-drop functionality for free. But nothing beats a pen and paper for quick, rough sketches of your storyboard.

Remember that users’ needs evolve over time, so periodically revisit and revise your user research to stay relevant and effective.

Actionable Steps

  • Identify the target audience for your product. Be as specific as possible.
  • Consider where you are in your product’s lifecycle, and therefore which user research techniques will work best for you.
  • Create a lightweight persona based on your target audience.
  • Make a plan to perform one type of user research on the persona you’ve identified.