Requirements gathering techniques for understanding user characteristics

To gather requirements and information on your product’s potential users and their characteristics, you might consider using some combination of the following techniques:

  • Interviews with users
  • Interviews with managers and other stakeholders (if applicable)
  • Interviews with subject matter (domain) experts
  • Questionnaire surveys
  • Observing users…
    • using your product or prototype
    • performing their tasks without your product, either with a competitor’s product, or by doing the task manually without a technology-supported solution
  • Analyzing website analytics data: User demographics, frequently-searched keywords, heatmaps, usage patterns, etc.
  • Literature review: Academic research, third-party market research reports, etc.
  • “Documentation archaeology” from past projects

Some user characteristics for your product might be chosen “by design” when you define your target market and product positioning strategy. For instance, by targeting a product towards children, you’re intentionally restricting the age range of the target user group to a certain range.

If you are making any assumptions about your users and target market, it is a good idea to test your assumptions. But research costs time and money, and so especially in smaller projects, you will have to weigh the cost-benefit ratio of improving the quality of the information you’ll be using for future decision-making.

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