4 mins | 18 Mar, 2021

Why we value a human first approach

Here at Userism, we put humans at the heart of every decision, it's one of our core values. We talk about being user centric and human focused a lot, it's kind of our thing… And we think you should too. Why? Because that's how you build great digital products.

What is a human first approach?

Quite simply, a human first approach is when you put the needs of person in front of anything else. There are different names people use for this type of thinking:

  • User first
  • User focused
  • People centric
  • Human centred
  • Having a human mindset
  • Empathetic thinking
  • Etc…

It all comes down to one thing though - thinking about the person that’s going to be using your product or service first and considering their situation as the starting point. This could be from a number of perspectives:

  • Flow: influences, motivations, actions, blockers
  • Mental: emotions, mindset, beliefs
  • Sensory: visual, auditory, touch sensations and physical capabilities

It's all about taking time to understand humans and why we act the way we do.

What benefits does a human first approach bring?

When you consider the mind-set of your users, their intentions and motivations and how they might physically interact with your product, you can build up a profile of their usage that is much more accurate to the real-world than more abstract (or purely aesthetic thinking) might achieve. From this, user journeys can be planned that compliment a person's way of thinking and removes potential obstacles along the way.

You can design products that are more intuitive to use in this way. Providing features that don’t need explanation, you just instinctively know how to use them. This leads to less confusion and shorter time to goal completion. Which in turn leads to happier customers who are more likely to speak about your product positively, perhaps even shout about it and tell all their friends and followers too!

Thinking in this way also helps you understand the differences users may have with your product. We are all different and one user may engage in a different way than another. Some users may want to open your app at a certain time or location, others not so much. Some users will want to dive straight in while others take it slow. Some will appreciate the details, others won't notice them. Having an appreciation for your audience and their differences helps you create products with broader appeal.

Lastly it gives you a mandate for testing. If you know you want to create a product that appeals to a certain demographic, you can talk to, survey, demo or test your product with that group to see what's working and what's not. If you just create a product and put it out into the world without really think about who it is for, you may never know which features are truly important.

How can I be more human focused?

The first step in being more human focused is deciding you want to be. It’s really not so difficult and just a matter of saying, “I want to build better products that are more suited to my users”. Make that choice and make it clear to your team/stakeholders.

Put it at the top of your priorities list. One of the questions we ask ourselves regularly within our web and app design projects is “How does this help the user?”. Make it a part of your workflow to check in regularly to test your work against this.

Start thinking about how and why users will interact with your product or service. Ask questions like:

  • Are my users/customers/connections detail orientated or do they prefer a broad appreciation?
  • Are they open to engagement or prefer anonymity
  • Do they have an exploratory mindset or prefer a tried and tested route

Add to this list with your own user-focused questions.

Use guidelines created by others that focus on human behaviour. You don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are many resources you can use as a guide, for instance this set of user experience guidelines for websites.

Create a bank of exercises you can turn to that focus on human behaviour (Google UX exercises for more than you will ever need). Here’s a great starter exercise for assessing any digital product, page or user journey:

MIBA Exercise:

When reviewing a web or app page/site, ask about the users:

  • Motivations: What's motivating them at this particular point?
  • Influencers: What might be influencing their behaviour?
  • Blockers: What might be blocking them moving forward?
  • Actions: What actions might they take next?

We find just contemplating these questions, results in more thoughtful and useful end results.

Finally, give yourself permission to wander and explore. Since becoming an agency that is user focused, we’ve found many tangents to follow that have opened up the possibilities of learning about the human mind. There are countless resources online that cover a broad range of ideas, from evolutionary psychology to analysing data, running test labs, conducting user research and learning about: emotions, reactions, desire and basic human needs. This Isn't just work for us, its become a passion. If you have something to share you think we might like, please do.

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