How Listening to Users Inspired our Product Planning

Hannah Lennon, User-Experience Researcher

Nov 01, 2018

The user is at the heart of what we are building here in Kinzen. We are designing a product that will give a news reader more control of an experience they can trust. It is paramount that we are in tune with what the members of our community want. As a user researcher it is my responsibility to highlight these needs and to relay them back to the Kinzen team.

Listening is at the core of our ethos. Much of my time is spent in listening sessions with prospective users of our app. And listening to each other is the foundation on which we work. We are a small team and each of us have different skill sets. But we are all working under the shared perspective that we are starting again.

I have approached the ethos of starting again from a different perspective to the rest of the team. I do not come from a background in journalism nor had I ever considered myself an active news reader before joining. My background is in Psychology, Cyberpsychology and Human Machine Interaction.

Because of my experience I have a keen eye for the effects and detriments that digital living has placed on social interactions and personal wellbeing. From the outside looking in it may seem counterintuitive to then start working with a digital media company.

But Kinzen is different. We are working to fix a broken system, and I get to do something special. We believe that UX Research should be driven by context, not content. UX Research insights should derive from the context in which the user finds themselves and less on the content of the service you are creating.

Pre-market launch tests usually consist of strict usability testing, however with our ethos of putting the user's needs first we took this opportunity to reformulate traditional UX testing sessions. We opted to assign a large proportion of our test discussion to incorporate a more holistic and qualitative perspective. Rather than strictly watching what users were doing we took the opportunity to listen to what they were saying.

By engaging users in broad conversations, tests turned into explorative sessions where we got to know each user and the way in which they consume news or engage with information online.

Importantly these conversations began to highlight our users’ perspectives, intentions and opinions of life online, and their digital behaviours. From an ethnographic perspective these tests where illuminating. We were seeing a formed picture of these users and how this product would fit into the context of their daily lives.

A key point that repeatedly arose was a backlash against tech. Perceptions towards digital products have turned sour. There is a large awareness of the ‘algo-echo chamber’ that exists on social media. People are conscious that they are being fed information crafted and limited to what already exists within their social contexts and already existing mental models. There is less room for serendipity.

People are also going private. Our users are turning away from sharing on a public platform and opting to do so instead in the privacy of closed group networks like WhatsApp.

We are in a cultural moment and climate where people have less trust in the tech environment. So let's actually listen to their deeper needs, their intentions, and help them achieve their goals.

The insights and the information we received from our willing and helpful participants was extremely informative in helping us formulate the app and devise key features. Our creative process would have been much less dynamic without the input of these hugely helpful listening sessions.

Now, our pre-launch testing phase is nearly at an end, and the app will be live in the hands of more people in mid-November. The coming months will be an exciting and formative time for UX research as we assess the ways in which our product fits in to the context of our members’ lives. Become an early adopter and help us test the app.

See more information on testing here and join us here.

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