Building a successful product means knowing your users and building your product with them in mind. Unfortunately, many times this is overlooked. As a result, product teams make assumptions and their products end up unintentionally being geared toward them, instead of the end user. This problem can easily be solved though by simply by integrating user experience (UX) practices such as personas, and user testing. To demystify and simplify these integral processes and encourage others to integrate them into their work, we’ll dive into why they’re important, what they are and how to you can implement them, here and within future blog posts.

If you don’t have an understanding of your users and their lives, how do you know what technology they have, what kind of internet may or may not be available or even if they have a need for the tool you’re building? People’s lives, wants and needs are all so different that knowing exactly what will serve those needs is incredibly hard without asking your audiences the right questions.

Being able to ask and get meaningful answers to these questions doesn’t have to be hard or time consuming: it just involves integrating research, care and empathy into each and every project. Here at Development Seed, we do this by building purposeful UX design practices into our projects up front, so that we’re thinking about and building for our users throughout the life of a project. Because we have a great understanding of our users from the beginning, it saves us time from potentially having to rebuild large parts of the product down the road. Also, knowing what our users want allows us to make informed design decisions, making this process easier and more staightforward.

Of course every project that we do is different but the two UX practices we feel are the most integral, and would like to cover, are personas and user testing.

Personas - Personas are archetypes of who the users of your platform will be. There are many different methods for figuring out who your users are and/or who they should be, from google analytics to ethnographic research. Whichever you choose, building personas allows you to more deeply consider the lives of your users, be empathic and think about things from their perspective, making your product better geared toward them.

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User Testing - User testing is asking a relevant user to do tasks on a product and seeing how they perform. Whether you do it through a platform like usertesting.com or use other methods like moderated usablity testing as we do, any testing is good testing. Not only are you able to collect both qualitative (preferential) and quantitative (raw numerical) data, giving you the best insight into what needs to be changed, but also seeing first-hand how users interact and react to your product is invaluable.

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Over the next month watch for our posts that will dive deeper into these processes, using our own Development Seed site as an example. Want to join the process? We’ll be looking for people to participate for a half hour sometime during the month of May. Just fill out the following survey, http://ds.io/uxing-devseed, so that we can learn a little about you before we dive into the specifics.

We're a team of engineers and designers working on big projects. We believe in open source and in building for lasting impact.

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