Designing Data – Part 2: User Research

May 22nd, 2012 by Alex Carusillo

We’re asked about our design all the time – usually in an incredibly kind way full of high fives and “how’d you do that?!”s but sometimes in a “ugh, did you even think about talking to a customer??” kind of way. So, we decided to give you a week-long deep dive into our design process in this “Designing Data” series. Yesterday we covered the right mindset, today's all about user research. Check in tomorrow for the looking at the data portion of our design process.

We don’t make a single move without making sure it will solve a real problem for real users.

Whether they’re sitting here at the Chartbase telling us what makes their jobs hard, on a screen-share showing us how they use the dashboard , or through behavioral data from our APIs -- everything we do comes from real people and their real usage. Not best case, hypothetical personas who might one day open up our dashboard. That’s why we’re so serious when we talk about learning from our users. They are as much partners as they are anything else and we just couldn’t deliver without them. The biggest thing we’ve learned is to always be listening (ABL, if you will). And really listening. Not just hearing what they say and delivering that exact feature. But truly understanding what will make them better than they every thought possible. We can’t build anything until we really get that. But understanding and solving are very different things. Don’t try to solve everything or even anything right off the bat. In our early user research, we’re just trying to figure out the common problems people bump into. We don’t ask “what don’t you like about our dashboard?” we ask “what makes you come to Chartbeat? Why do you want to see data at all?” The former results in feature requests while the latter uncovers the things that make life harder -- and we’re way more interested in those. Until we know why people turn to us we can’t solve their problems, we can’t make something that will make them better. For example, in talking to people about our recent Chartbeat dashboard redesign we realized that, at the highest level, people had three questions they turned to Chartbeat for:
  • How many people are on my site?
  • What are they looking at?
  • Where are they coming from?
In short, they needed the pulse of their site. So, naturally, we decided to build something that delivered just that. Where next, you ask? Well, looking at the data of course! We’ll get there in tomorrow’s edition.