You are not the user

This is one of the hardest pills to swallow. You are not the user, as simple as that. Even when you think you know a lot of stuff about your user, even when you've spent hours talking with the users, watching the users use your product, and learning about their are not the user.

This is a mistake that happens a lot within organizations, people start to think they can think, feel, and act like a user. But that's usually (99% of the time) not the case.

You know too much about your product, and you are probably using it in a way no other user would use it. It's really hard to play the user role, you should focus on empathizing with the user rather than trying to take their role.

A short story about not being the user

Sometimes we think we are the user, and we think we know what the user wants, but what we are actually doing is building what we are missing when using the product.

I can give an example of this, I used to work developing an app where you were able to open registers for customers and fill their details in different categories depending on their stage in the funnel. In addition, you would have a notes section that was global to the customer regardless of their stage.

As someone using the app without being the actual user, that notes section was annoying, it was taking about 20% of the screen so we were closing it all the time.

One day, we had a complaint about the UI becoming too cluttered, we didn't get it, I mean, we were using it and it was quite nice. Until I went to see how one of our users was using our product, they were using it in way smaller screens than us, and with the notes section open all the time as they rely heavily on note taking during calls to then populate other fields.

We thought we were the users, and we optimized for ourselves. This is a common mistake I've seen around a lot.

Talk with your users

As a rule of thumb, you should be always talking more with your users. And you should also probably not call them users. It doesn't matter if you are already talking with them on a regular basis, you can always talk more with them

Talking with them helps you understand their pain points, helps you to prioritize better, and helps you discover things from your product. If you have the chance to talk with them on a regular basis, and you are lucky they actually want to talk with you, don't underestimate this powerful tool.

I would encourage you to even have pretty open calls and just sit there observing how they interact with your product. Checking how they access different screens, how they perform different actions, etc.

You don't need to have a specific topic to just talk with them, it's great when you have it, but it's also great when you don't and you are just open to learning something new, and discovering how your product is being used.

Validate your ideas with your users

You should be putting stuff in front of them as quick as possible, and oiling feedback channels. As soon as you can validate, or even better discard, an idea the best.

Your users should be part of your development cycle, they should be involved and their input should be taken into consideration. As simple as it seems to be, you can really improve the impact of your product by focusing on what is really important for them. Or even better, you can save yourself from building the wrong product.

The earlier you get the feedback from the users, the easier it would be to pivot and restructure wrong assumptions.

Be mindful of the noise

A final note is also to be aware that it's also your job to filter away noise from the users' feedback. Be smart about what you take, and don't be fooled by two users complaining louder than one thousand users being happy.

It's important you find the balance between user feedback, your product vision and strategy, and the data supporting you when making decisions.