Watch them interact with their natural environment, then come up with a design that fits gracefully with their related activities and needs.
One of the biggest mistakes well-meaning organizations tend to make is ask their customers: “What do you need?”
If Henry Ford had asked people what they need, he says they’d probably have said, “faster horses.”
People often don’t have a clear idea of what they really need. Sometimes they don’t even know a need exists, until a product comes along and fulfills it. After all, no one needed an iPhone till Steve Jobs came to market with it.
That doesn’t mean you rely solely on the intuitive fancy of gifted visionaries, and completely ignore customer feedback. On the contrary, it means you take the time to research and understand your customer base and activities so well that you can anticipate their needs better than them.
That’s what iconic brands like Apple, Nike and Harley Davidson do. For these brands, customers aren’t just customers. They’re flesh and blood people with dreams, hopes aspirations and ideologies. These companies don’t just focus on the product. They conjure up a whole universe of values, sensations and experiences. As a result, they build a community of fans, loyalists and advocates.
Customer personas need to be archetypes – a typical example of a certain person; not stereotypes – oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.
But understanding people with all their complexities and dualities is not easy. Research based on geography or demographics often perpetuates stereotypes. To be potent, it needs to be substantiated with psychographic insights. Customer personas need to be archetypes – a typical example of a certain person; not stereotypes – oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person.
Don’t get me wrong here. Surveys, questionnaires and focus groups are all very valuable sources of gathering user data. But you need to remember, they all more or less answer: what do you need? How do you feel? The questions can be limiting. The responses consciously crafted.
Observing people in the way they naturally interact with their environment is much more impactful than census data, surveys and questionnaires. In their natural habitat, people aren’t responding or reacting to a prompt. They’re doing what they naturally do – with no external influence. And that’s what gives you the purest picture of who they are, how they behave and what they need.