Never Ask Users What They Want

When you ask a person what they want, you let them think within the realm of possibility. And that makes user research harder than it should be. If you’re trying to create a new product or experience that doesn’t exist yet, you’ll want to know what’s causing people to not be able to do what they want with the tools they currently have. That way, you can design for an entirely new experience or incremental improvement that helps them get the job done.

Charles Liu, Never Ask What They Want — 3 Better Questions to Ask in User Interviews

Most users struggle, wether consciously or not, to understand themselves and the problems that affect them. Knowing this make’s it a fool’s errand to simply ask users what they want and then build it for them.

Liu outlines 3 excellent questions that every designer should be obsessed with. Perhaps what Liu doesn’t underline enough however, is the central role of empathy when seeking to understand users better. Understanding users and their mental models makes you a good designer. But seeking to empathise and identifying with the user’s context, aspirations and goals will make you a great designer.