Karthik

Why User Emulation Should Be Function
in Every Product Team

Why User Emulation Should Be Function
in Every Product Team

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Karthik Pasupathy

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 22, 2020 – [8 mins read]

 
 

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Karthik Pasupathy R
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 22, 2020
[8 mins read]

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Learn how User Emulation helps product teams deliver a better product experience

 
 
 
Chennai, 2012
It was a Saturday morning. I was at a small startup incubator in Egmore, seated among the enthusiastic members of the Chennai Photoshop User Group (CPUG), a hobbyist group of artists, designers, and photographers who got together on weekends to talk about their design projects, design methods, tips and tricks involved in effectively using Adobe Photoshop.
It was a whole different era (even though it was just eight years ago) as there weren’t a lot of design and illustration tools in the market. Back then creativity meant three things: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator and a Wacom tablet.
That day we gathered around to take a sneak peek into Adobe Photoshop’s latest version, CS6, and to see the 100+ features it had come with. When the presenter showed us that the new version has the ‘auto-save’ feature, the crowd went bonkers.
Back then, when photoshop crashed unexpectedly, designers lost all their work. In order to avoid that, designers often manually save every now and then (by pressing Ctrl + S) to make sure their work is safe. The new ‘auto-save’ feature was a game-changer. But, the downside of it was, every designer had to wait for a good two years to use the feature.
If you ask me what had changed from then and now, I would say that we’ve come a long way from having to wait for several months for the next version of the software and try its new features. We live in the age of cloud where all we need to do is refresh the browser and we’ll be able to use the feature we’ve been requesting for a while. We are living in the golden age of product experience.
But, the problem with this approach is, similar to online shopping and social media, the concept of instant gratification also found its way to product companies. Their ultimate goal now is to build and ship features faster.
But, do all the shipped features translate to a better product or user experience? Most certainly not.
 
We often see users requesting a feature and getting something completely different from what they were expecting. So, to bridge this gap, the solution engineers and product managers come up with workarounds that make the whole experience difficult and painful.
This happens because we do not spend sufficient time testing features from a user’s perspective.
Today, we have dedicated teams and processes in place for testing our code.
But, we are not giving the same amount of importance to user testing.
This is because user testing is an unwritten rule and is often skipped while the development and testing teams are in a hurry to take a feature to the users.
According to an article, only 55 percent of the product companies do proper usability testing before shipping a feature.
How can we solve this problem and provide a better product experience for our customers?
By making ‘User Emulation’ a function in every product team

What is User Emulation?

What is User Emulation?

 
User Emulation focuses on analyzing the user experience of a product from the shoes of an end-user.
Rather than having knowledge on UI/UX, a user emulator should have a great deal of common sense, a passion for exploring new features and product experiences, and the ability to ask meaningful questions and to logically explain why they’re not having a great experience using a feature or a product

Why does it matter?

Why does it matter?

 
 
I recently came across this quote “Design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.” It made so much sense.

 

 
Be it a product designer or a product manager. There is always a ton of external and internal influences when they’re developing a new feature. These influences include the most talked-about design experience in the market, the latest design trend, something built by the competition, and so on. At times, these factors take a front seat and make a feature look totally different from how it was supposed to be.
And, the users don’t complain. They try to put up with the product for a while, and after a point, they simply leave.
According to an article, 91% percent of unsatisfied customers don’t complain but simply leave.
However, with a user emulator questioning the choice of design elements, and the usability of a feature, the development team would know how far off they were from delivering the intended experience. This will help them fix those issues before taking them to their customers.
This way the customers always get better user experience.
I’ve worked on several features as a product marketer, but I really loved my time as a Technical Writer when I started out in SaaS. I often got a sneak peek of all the features that are being worked on and I used to ask numerous questions after trying out a feature or after looking at the mocks. There were times where the product team took my input, went back to the drawing board, and completely redesigned the way a feature looks and functions.
I still practice this before marketing a feature. I always try them out and ask numerous questions.

Imagine a person or a team spending their entire time trying out features and providing product feedback. The amount of information a product team could get from them would be tremendous.

Is this possible?

Is this possible?

 
 
A couple of decades ago, people wouldn’t have thought of UX to become the big thing in product design. Back then, people hardly knew the difference between UI and UX roles.
People never thought UX writing would be a career option and UX writers will be playing a key role in several product organizations.
The SaaS landscape is constantly achieving breakthroughs only because of its ability to evolve fast.
You never know. Five years down the line, organizations might have dedicated teams of user emulators as part of a product team.

User emulation could become a domain and open up a market for a ton of new software tools allowing emulators to measure, analyze, and comment on product experiences.

How to Establish a User Emulation Function

How to Establish a User Emulation Function

Here are three simple ways to get started with user emulation.
Make it part of the process
Design your product development process with usability testing in mind.
Use the superpowers of Technical Writers
Technical/UX writers always put themselves in users’ shoes when they write guides or product copies. Make use of their expertise. Ask them to extensively try out the latest features and give feedback. If you’ve caught something big, go back and fix it. Workarounds break the experience for users.
Use the early adopters
Find 1–2 customers who’ve been with you since the beginning. The early adopters who believed in your product when you yourself did not. Involve them in usability testing before even opening a feature to beta. The feedback really makes a difference because they love your product as much as you.
Providing a consistent user experience is hard. But, with proper usability testing and with the help of user emulators, it is definitely achievable.
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Karthik Pasupathy

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 22, 2020

 
 
 
 
 

Published Author and Product Marketer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Karthik Pasupathy R
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

October 22, 2020

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Published Author and Product Marketer.

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