Putting users first

Many of us will be old enough to remember the early days of the Internet and we almost certainly all remember our first experience of browsing a web page. As a not-so-fresh-faced teenager, the Internet meant one thing to me; music. I was one of the last in my group of friends to get an Internet connection in my house and by that point everyone I knew was downloading songs on peer-to-peer services like Napster and Kazaa. The ability to download albums and singles without leaving your desk was a game-changer and the music industry was at a cross-roads, embrace this new technology that approximately 80 million people were using or try to maintain the status quo of selling physical media to consumers. Napster was one of the first disruptive innovations made possible by the Internet and the music industry continues to struggle to adapt to the needs of artists and consumers alike.

The Internet has made countless numbers of disruptive innovations possible and continues to do so. The new kid on the block is transportation network Uber which aims to revolutionise the way in which people travel. The impact of the startup has caused protests by taxi drivers in London, which ironically led to a surge of more than an 800% rise in downloads of the Uber app. Whilst there are issues with Uber other than technology, the lack of regulation being a particular cause of concern, it is not the first time that a disruptor has faced problems from the businesses that utilise a traditional model.

Consumers are flocking to Uber because it’s cheaper and above all, more convenient. The Uber app allows you to hail a cab at a touch of a button and pay your fee via your already-registered credit card. No standing around on street corners trying to hail a cab or digging for change, things that consumers dislike about the taxi experience. This kind of user-first convenience is key when it comes to creating products for consumers. Amazon has made it easier and cheaper to purchase just about anything, Airbnb is opening doors for travellers and NEST is helping consumers keep a lid on growing energy costs. They are all solving problems and providing new or different ways for consumers to carry out actions.

The examples mentioned above are built around their customers in an attempt to solve a problem. Creating a successful website requires the same approach:

  • What is the problem?
  • What are your USP’s?
  • What do users want?

More and more at Union Room, we are moving the emphasis towards what users want. Most new or existing business have a good grasp of what users need and expect, but it’s important that these are not based on assumptions. In the past few months we have been revising our traditional project structure to allow for a larger first phase of work, which incorporates more user research and fact-finding. We have already seen the benefits of this for new projects that we have under way for clients such as Parkdean, Sanderson Young and Tharsus.

The rewards are clear for businesses and products that put users first. Refusing to do so can be an opportunity missed.

If you’d like to hear more about our revised user-first project structure, we’d love to hear from you.

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