User Data Sources
Dr. John Morkes

Q: We get feedback from users when we’re able to do usability tests, which is not often enough. What other sources are good for user data?

Companies often fail to take advantage of internal sources of user data. In defining requirements for the next release, do you talk to Tech Support or Customer Service to identify the most frequent or critical usability issues they’ve heard about from users? Those teams also are on the front line for hearing about new features that users want.

Technical Writers and Documentation Specialists also can be gold mines of information. If those folks are not already on your team, find them and ask their thoughts. Chances are, the things they have a hard time documenting are good issues to be explored.

Marketing and Product Management might have valuable data for you from surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc.

If your organization has a Training group, ask them what’s working and what the users want changed. Observe the training sessions yourself, too, and listen to people’s questions.

How about Sales Reps and Consultants who go out in the field? Try sending a User Experience Specialist on customer visits with them, to emphasize how important the customers are to your company, and to solicit feedback and requirements in a way that’s probably different from how the Sales Reps and Consultants do it.

However you do it, don’t rely on any single source to provide you with user data. Get feedback from multiple channels, compare and contrast the data across channels, and look for patterns and ”a-ha” nuggets in the data.

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