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🤔 Don’t assume your user thinks like you
Not everyone thinks like a software engineer.
A common problem on every software team I've ever been on is assuming every customer thinks the way you do
In software development and especially product management, we talk so much about user empathy but time and time again, it doesn’t seem like people know what that truly means. It more than just knowing what the job is or how it is done. We need an understanding of how the person is motivated, how they run their day, the tools they use, the pain points…and the world of remote work makes it a lot harder to empathize in that way. We like to think our customers are as pragmatic as ourselves, but that isn’t always the case. To build great products that really delight, solve a problem and have staying power; it is essential to have a well-rounded understanding of your user.
The last few months have been eye-opening for me. I had the opportunity to visit several of the country's largest property managers to better understand who we are building for at Updater: the leasing agent, the property manager, the regional manager, and the operations executive. Spoiler alert: I made some incorrect assumptions. I assumed certain aspects of their job were more straightforward than they actually were. I imagined that if a notification didn’t fire, a leasing agent would still know what to do. That is not at all the case. The persona I had been building for, in many cases, is a creature of habit. They have their daily rituals. They log in, navigate to the dashboard, and follow instructions. If something isn’t there, it often doesn’t get done. A revelation.
We have a myriad of ways to help us understand our user: UserTesting, UserInterviews, Surveys, NPS, etc. but nothing replaces human connection, in-person interaction and just watching someone do their job.
Do the work, or as Ken Norton would say, “Bring the donuts”
In the remote-first world, I think we have missed something (well, a few things): not every task can or should be done remotely. Hyper-focused user research can be effective remotely but true connection with your users and a deeper understanding of the persona you’re building for is hard to do well from a distance. As a product person, I am very used to being asked by engineers “why do they need that” or being told “this solution is better, technically” and I used to have a hard time justifying myself. Having now spent a lot of time with all of our user personas, that isn’t an issue anymore. So consider the in-person time, bring donuts, buy coffee, or just show that you care because it goes a long way for them and for you.