Discover Your Users Before Creating Custom Software

One of the most important rules of thumb for creating custom software is this: The user should always be at the center of whatever you’re creating. While an application could be highly functional and packed with awesome features, ultimately you are building software that will be used by real people. Your goal should be to create software that is useful, easy to use, and most importantly solving a real need. In order to do that, you need to understand the current behavior, frustrations, and desires of the people that will benefit from your software.  

If you are investing in creating custom software, you are likely trying to solve a business problem or meet an unmet need in the market. It’s time to take that thought a step further and focus on the people that are impacted by this problem you’re working to solve. Who are the people that will use the software you build? Why will they use it?

Who Will be Using the Software You Build and What Do You Know About Them?

One industry term you will hear when referring to users is “personas.” A persona is a fictional character that is created to represent different user types that might use your software. It allows you to focus on groups of people that share similar goals, rather than focusing on many individuals.

Your first step is to identify the personas that will use your software. For example, your personas might be job titles (ie. “Sales Team” or “Attorneys” “Elementary teachers”) This type of grouping tends to work if people in each role have the same frustrations and goals. Of it might make sense to group your personas based on behavior, personality, etc. (“online shoppers” “Mothers with 3+ kids”)    

It is best practice to build personas based on user research, then combine them in a way that allows you to tell a story and put yourself in their shoes when making decisions about how your software will work. If you haven’t invested in research, it is still valuable to do personas. 

Identify the Biggest Challenges or Unmet Needs for Each Persona

Ask questions about what they want, need, and how custom software can fill in the gaps. What are the challenges they are having with their current application (or lack thereof)? What can be improved?

Once you’ve done the research and work to identify the people that will be using your software, you can get an even better picture of who they are and what they’re looking for. As you dive deeper into the personas and groups you’re appealing to, you’ll want to get a greater sense of their challenges and current unmet needs. This will inform what kind of custom app or software that you create so you can best fill in the gaps. 

Bottom Line

When it comes to creating an application, start by figuring out your audience first. Learn to identify who are the users for your custom software. Understanding your audience will help you design human-centered applications for clients and create technology that actually improves the lives of the people that use it. Get our free software planning guide to get you started here. 

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