Start with user needs, and keep them involved

Before building or designing anything, you must start by researching and understanding your users’ needs. This means gaining a deep understanding of their situation, behaviours, attitudes, problems and goals. To truly understand user behaviours, it’s better to spend a lot of time with a smaller number of people, rather than one moment with lot. So rather than surveys, you use techniques like semi-structured interviews or shadowing.

Don’t only do this at the start though – you have to keep ensuring that your product or service meets those user needs and that you’re actually responding to what they tell you. This means ongoing testing and research with users, and constantly adapting your decisions based on what you find out.

One of the reasons user research is so important when developing ‘tech for good’ services, is that the digital service must meet the user’s preferences and behaviours as well as their ‘social’ needs. These two needs can sometimes clash (‘I want to save money, but I struggle to find time to write a budget’), which means really thoughtful research-led design is even more important, to ensure the service will be both used, and beneficial.

Find out more

A simple guide to carrying out effective user research for charities.
An introduction to user value as one of the three strands of value in social tech.

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