We need to know who we're designing for

User Experience | 06 July 2016

How often do we receive project briefs that have a detailed list of requirements, including information and layout of the project, for us to put together a proposal? Sometimes the client has included a detailed rundown of the history of the company and/or the platforms they use and a paragraph or two about the target audience.

That’s a good starting point, but when picking up the brief to put together the proposal, we start having more questions than answers. Is the user going to be using it various times a day, week or month? Do the users feel comfortable with the brand? Does a responsive layout make sense or a separate mobile solution? How do we show the value we can bring to the table and at the same time answer the needs outlined in the brief especially if we feel the project can be taken in a completely different direction?

At HI INTERACTIVE, we know that these are just a few of the questions that might arise and, in this article, we will show you just how you can make decisions that will adhere to the client’s objectives and, at the same time, serve the user best.

Most businesses already understand the importance of their users, but when it comes to development or improvements, many assumptions are made on what the stakeholders or other company staff believe the user’s need or how they interact with the solution.

Establish the importance of the user in the project

From the very beginning it is fundamental to make sure that everyone understands the importance of the user’s needs. Ultimately the user will be the person that decides on the success of the project. If a user isn’t happy, don’t expect them to come back for more.

As soon as we start putting together the proposal, we need to try and find data to support our decisions. The internet is overrun with studies, articles and statistics about almost anything. Despite all the available information, not all of it is completely trustworthy. Be careful to understand the context and the level of reliability of your sources.

If you pay attention, some patterns begin to emerge which give us a strong basis for the direction we should take our proposal. Our team for example, likes to create a board of post-its of the data to organise our ideas and brainstorm the best way to move forward.

The proposal is just the beginning

Presenting the proposal is another important step. Once we have presented our findings and suggestions, we need to explain to the client that despite all the data we found to support our ideas, we will still need to make sure who the users are and how they will use the solution.

Setting up a few user research exercises as part of the proposal package is essential. Initially, some clients might be sceptic: in these cases it is a good idea to keep these exercises to a minimum and inline with the rest of the project so that the clients understand it won’t affect the timeline.

Results are your strongest argument

Even if you have done the best proposal in the world and the client loved your ideas and wants to move forward, it might happen that they don’t understand the importance of user testing right away. This might mean they want as little user testing as possible or even no user testing at all…

Don’t give up. If the user testing must be kept down to a minimum, use the techniques that might yield the most valuable data for that project. However, if the client has decided that user testing does not make sense, I suggest three possible options:

  1. Try and complete the whole project in less hours than initially budgeted. Tell the client the extra hours are for a first iteration - that will include some user testing and improvements to the solution.

  2. Try doing user tests with friends or family that might fit the target audience and then present the results to the client for them to understand the value of knowing the user better.

  3. Include user testing as a bonus that won’t affect the budget or timeline, but let the client understand that it’s only for this first project. In future projects or iterations it would need to be part of the budget.

With any one of these solutions, clients will be able to see the results and understand that their users might vary a bit from their initial assumptions, which makes the argument for understanding the user that much easier.


Not everyone understands the importance of really knowing the user, but how would we ever expect to build the best gym if we have not met any regular fitness aficionados or a school that pleases and educates if we have never sat down with the kids and teachers?

At Hi INTERACTIVE we understand that getting to know the user is an essential part of any project, allowing us to design the best solution while saving time and money. Don’t forget your users: get in touch.