7 user needs questions to ask before a redesign

Building a web or mobile app is rarely a one-and-done activity. Technology changes, industries change, and user needs change. As an organization, you—and your digital presence—must change as well.

This is especially true for websites that serve not just as a source of information but that function more as a utility. For these websites and apps, it’s important to monitor users’ needs so you can respond to changes in order to better serve them.

When someone comes to us about redesigning a web or mobile app, these are the types of questions we ask. Our goal is to get beyond the features the organization would like to see to really drill down to those users need and want:

1. Who are your primary users?

Who uses your site or app? This is not how you use the site internally or even who you imagine your users to be. What do you know about those people who actually use your app?

It’s easy to design and build apps with the features you as an organization think are important. But to truly address your users’ needs, it’s important to start by identifying who those users are so you can drill down into their goals and obstacles.

2. What are the main tasks a user needs to accomplish?

Every app has core responsibilities as well as a whole lot of non-core features. What are the core tasks of your website or app?

Most apps and websites have a never-ending backlog of features the organization envisions for the future. But each feature requires both time and money to build. So we begin to prioritize: what are the main tasks a user needs to accomplish? We can then build a scope of work around those needs to ensure they’re not lost in the midst of non-core features.

3. What do users wish they could do, but can’t?

Similarly, what do your users wish they could do via your app? This isn’t something you’ve promised them in the past but something they wish they could do in an ideal world. As with the other questions, it’s important to view this through the lens of the user.

Often, features are added to an existing app by simply layering them on top of the existing app. The redesign process offers a unique opportunity to really go back to the drawing board and address user wishes alongside their needs and obstacles.

4. What are your users’ biggest obstacles?

Users come to a website or app with something they want to accomplish, a job to do, if you will. What obstacles or friction do they encounter when they try to do that job? Ideally, you’ve heard from them about these obstacles, whether it’s through your support channels or social media.

Those obstacles represent an opportunity for you to really address these pain points at their root rather than throwing another thing into the knowledge base or spelling out a four-step workaround.

5. What questions do users ask the most often?

This should be one of the easiest questions on this list. Look at your FAQs and ask your support staff: what are the questions they’re hearing from users the most often?

This is just another way of teasing out the pain points your users are experiencing so we can look for ways to address them. In each of these questions, we want to point back to your users’ experience. This isn’t what Kevin in Finance wants to see in the app but the places where the user experience is less than ideal.

6. What new behaviors are you seeing from users that you didn’t see before?

As the world change, user behavior changes, and users may begin to interact with your app in new and different ways. This may be reflected in the questions they ask or in your data analytics, but the goal here is to identify how user behavior is changing and how that impacts the goals for the redesign.

Some of these will be observable behaviors you can see in your analytics or in the questions users are asking. Others are perceived behaviors where your team has a sense something is shifting or changing but don’t yet have the data to prove it. And finally, there’s an opportunity to forecast changing behavior based on changes you’re seeing elsewhere.

7. When your users can’t accomplish their goals, who do they turn to?

This one may be a little trickier to answer. Think of it this way: “When users can’t ABC, they fill in the gap with XYZ.” This might be turning to your competition, or it might be a homegrown solution.

We ask this because users are getting resolution. They’re finding solutions. We want to intercept that behavior. Sometimes that means creating new features. Sometimes it means integrating with another solution. And sometimes it means fixing another problem further upstream. 

But at its core, this is an opportunity for innovation.

Questions we’re not asking

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of the questions we ask when we’re talking with prospects or clients about a redesign. We’ll cover the questions we ask around process, technology, and organizational needs in future posts.

But we’ve also left out questions about accessibility. This omission doesn’t mean we’re not concerned with accessibility. Rather, we expect any acute accessibility needs will come out as you describe your users; any others will be addressed as part of our standard development process.

Similarly, we don’t ask different questions depending on whether this is a web or mobile app. We’ll ask those questions elsewhere, but the questions about your users’ needs are the same regardless of platform.

I can’t answer these user needs questions—help!

If reading through these questions leaves you feeling unsure and overwhelmed, we’re here to help! With more than 20 years of experience, we have the expertise to help you with user research whether you move forward with a development project or not.

Contact us today to learn more about our process and how we can help you evaluate your user needs!

Kedron Rhodes
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