How to Build Great Products by Rallying Your Team Around the User

February 10, 2021

During my first gig, developers in Brazil, a designer in New Zealand, and teammates from the East and West coast of the U.S. came together to release a new product. It was powerful to see people around the world uniting around a common goal. Our teams are diverse, and we work on an incredible range of products and technologies. But there is one thing that every team has in common: we collaborate to solve problems for our users.

At the heart of every app, every blockchain, and every algorithm is a user with a job to do and a desire that needs to be met. Great innovations resolve unmet and unvoiced needs, and products that people love are created when a solution not only solves the right problem, but it drastically improves the quality of a user’s situation.

Product Tools

Make sure that your next product is one that users love with these tools:

1. Jobs-To-Be-Done Focuses the Team on Your User’s Underlying Motivations and Circumstances

Every user has many jobs to do each day. Some are simple like staying busy while riding the train, and others are complex like evaluating the tradeoff of using one tool over another when developing technology. Users are constantly “hiring” products to do jobs for them, and they tend to “hire back” products that met their needs well. While the persona (the profile of who is doing the hiring) is an important element when crafting a product, you should also consider the user’s circumstance and what underlying motivations are present at the time of need when “hiring” the product.

Look beyond tasks when deciding what functionality to include and create a list of jobs and their emotional and social dimensions.

2. The User-Centered Design Value System Aligns Product Decisions With the Needs and Wants of Users

Dr. Don Norman was one of the first advocates of user-centered design. He understood that products were created for people, and that the process of creating products that satisfy people’s needs should be playful, research-based, and agile. Dr. Norman created this value system: empathy, optimism, iteration, creative confidence, belief in making, embracing ambiguity, and learning from failure. Whether understanding what problem is being solved in the sales process, designing a product interface, or making architectural decisions, we are all makers who can use these principles to keep the humans at the center of what we build.

3. A Stakeholder Map Helps You Identify All of the People Who Are Impacted by Your Product

Products are never built for a single user. An entire ecosystem of stakeholders is impacted by a product and feels the effects of its use. Amazing products look beyond their key stakeholder and delight the people who will feel its effects. For example, consider a new educational computer game that a child might play. Her or his parents may have been involved in the decision to buy the game, and the design of the game should satisfy the parents and the child.

The game may do better if it is easier for the store to deliver, and the game might be a good candidate to be played in schools. User-centered design must take into account the needs and impact of technology on the products’ entire community. Map out who is involved and who needs to interact with a product on a stakeholder map. Understanding complex secondary interactions will make a product that delights and adds value beyond its primary user.

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