Realising the actual user need

It’s great to work from user needs. It feels obvious when you do, and mind boggling to think that anyone wouldn’t.

But the obviousness can be deceptive. In a meeting today someone joked about people confidently stating ‘user needs’ such as “users need a chatbot to give customer support” or “users need notifications to keep them up to date on their delivery.”

The user needs here are not for the features. Just behind those theoretical needs lie problems with the actual product or service that need resolving.

Remedies to those frustrations is what the user needs. And there are multiple considerations that would lead to an appropriate solution. Rarely are the solutions the very first feature or idea you think of.

A current silly need/frustration is for multiple charging cables, if like me you have some old micro USB devices (bike lights), some new USBC ones (headphones), and an iPhone with its lightening cable: Three cables are needed.

When traveling in the past I’ve taken 3 cables and a chunky plug that allows up to 4 USB cables to be plugged in at once. This answered my need. More cables. More things to change. A plug that can change more things. Obvious.

Recently though I ended up with this little cable when I bought a USB car charger:

A photo of the end of a white charging cable with a micro usb plug, attached to which via short plastic cables are two adapters for lightening cable and USBC.

In the middle is micro USB, on to which the attached USBC (left) and Lightening cable (right) connect.

This is what I’ve needed for travel all this time! I never needed 3 cables. Just 3 different cable ends. And I didn’t really need to charge everything all at once. I often did, but I never needed to. Now all I need is a regular slim single port USB plug. Less to carry and faff with. Less to forget or lose.

This is a silly example perhaps after stating broadly about ‘User Needs’. But again, I love how obvious this was all along, and yet how I never even realised my own actual need.

It highlights the need to never assume that you’ve cracked the solution to needs. Keep digging. What more could be removed. How much more simple can you make it.