We misuse the term “user insight” a lot—here’s how to actually use it | by Kai Wong | Jan, 2024


User insights are how we, as experts, recommend the best action to our team.

A man looking at a bunch of pictures while sitting in the middle, who is seemingly understanding all of the information that is being provided
Art by midjourney

User insights are not easy to generate, but they’re crucial to getting your team to take the right actions.

Understanding this and the problem with typical usability reports allowed me to make more meaningful design changes. The critical difference between generating user insights and presenting information comes from addressing your audience’s needs.

You’re not trying to tell your team everything that your users said or did. Instead, you should address what your decision-makers care about: what should we address (with our limited resources)?

What’s more, you don’t need to have a senior job title to do this. You need to realize one key thing: you’re the expert on the data.

You are the expert on the data, so recommend something

When the presentation rolls around, it’s likely that nobody else is as much of an expert on the data as you are. You might have run the tests and analyzed the data over weeks (or even months), which means you know the ins and outs of working with this data.

On the other hand, your decision-makers may only have some cursory knowledge of this dataset and may be relying on your presentation to help figure out what to do next. In other words, they might have about 20 minutes of experience with the data (i.e., whatever you present to them).

This familiarity imbalance is the reason that you need to be the one to recommend specific actions. Imagine a similar situation with a wine sommelier and a customer.

A man with a beard, bowtie, and vest standing at a table talking to a bunch of customers with a several glasses of red wine in front of him.
Art by midjourney

If all the wine sommelier did was list out what wines they had in stock without giving any recommendations or details, the customer would be forced to make a snap call on whatever sounded good, which might result in an unhappy customer (and a sommelier thinking “that was a terrible pairing” in the background).


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