User Observation Tool (Beta)

Create your custom User Observation Plan in less than 10 minutes.
User observation is a process of getting to know your user. To bring a successful product into the market you have to leave the comfort zone of your day-to-day routine and get out to meet people. People are your customers. All people have pains, and that is why all people have needs. The product visionaries – you – can satisfy those needs. The deeper the pain, the bigger the need, the more money your customer will pay for your solution in order to hurt less.
Download sample User Observation Plan created with our tool.

1 Familiarize yourself with these sample use cases:

A successful product solution responds to a need that grows out of a pain. We are choosing Apple iPod and Zappos online shoe store to illustrate the difference between pain, need and solution.

iPod by Apple

Joseph loved music. He loved to have his music wherever he went. He spent time every morning choosing from hundreds of CDs in his home collection for his Discman. He was guessing the mood for the day. He could only carry about 15 CDs in his backpack, and some CDs only had one track he liked! Joseph needed a way to spontaneously access all his music on the go. The iPod was the perfect solution. Steve Jobs envisioned iTunes and iPod. It took a visionary to challenge the 12 tracks album. But it was Joseph’s pain that surfaced the needs and drove the success of the solution. iPod was bigger than most competing players, but still smaller than a pack of cigarettes. Most importantly, it carried Joseph’s entire music collection, more songs than could fit in anyone’s backpack. Other digital players on the market only carried an album worth of music. These technical solutions were created without understanding the true needs of the user.

Joseph could not have all his music with him wherever he went.

Sample trigger questions to validate pain:
• Who is your favorite musician? Why?
• When was the last time you listened to music? Where?
• Can you show me your music collection?

Joseph needed a way to spontaneously access all his music on the go.

Sample trigger questions to validate need:
• How do you listen to music? Why?
• When do you listen to music? Why?
• Can you show me your music collection?

A pocket size portable player that carried Joseph’s entire music collection.

Sample trigger questions to validate solution:
Put the working prototype on the table and ask: What do you think this is?
Please pick it up and try using it.
• Would you carry this with you? Show me how.


Gisele loved shoes. But she lived in a small town and the selection was very limited in the nearby mall. She would call stores in other parts of the country looking for designs she found in magazines. If she were lucky to find that pair and in her size, few store were willing to ship, and even fewer were willing to accept the pair back if it did not fit. Besides that, the shipping was often more than the shoes. Gisele hated that most women in her town wore the same shoes. Gisele needed a way to see what other shoes were on the market, and have them shipped to her in various sizes and colors without commitment. Zappos was the perfect solution. Nick Swinmurn envisioned the online shoes store. It took a visionary to challenge “I have to try it first” status quo. But it was Gisele’s pain that surfaced the needs and drove the successful architecture of the solution. Nick understood people wanted access to larger selection. But without free fast shipping of unlimited number of pairs, seamless returns, and 365 day return policy, customers would not overcome the established ritual of purchasing a pair of shoes in brick and mortar.

Gisele could not wear shoes other than those available in a local mall.

Sample trigger questions to validate pain:
• How often do you dress up? Why?
• When was the last time you went to a party? Where?
• Can you show me where you keep your shoes?

Gisele needed a way to choose from and buy other shoes on the market.

Sample trigger questions to validate need:
• How many pairs of shoes would you have if you could shop anywhere?
• When do you usually buy new shoes? Why?
• Do you ever buy shoes when you travel? Why? (Why not?)

An online shoe store with free fast shipping and returns.

Sample trigger questions to validate solution:
How do you find shoes you like?
• Do you shop on-line? Why? (Why not?)
• Have you ever bought clothes on-line? Why? (Why not?)

2 Decide what you need to validate and stay focused.

Successful user observation requires a clear goal. The same process applies whether you need to validate your understanding of user’s pain, your assumption about user’s need, or your product solution. While quantitative research can tell you how many “clicked”, only user observation will tell you why (or why not.) User observation will lead you to the original pains that drive human behavior.

Validate pain, need and solution in different sessions. If you absolutely have to test any of these in one session, start with pain and work towards the solution. That way the observation will not be influenced by the solution.

3 Choose the right person to observe.

Realize that user and customer are sometimes two very different people or entities. The person you observe shall be someone you do not know. Plan to conduct the observation face-to-face and in an environment where the pain occurs, need surfaces or the solutions would be used. It is worth any travel! You can usually plan on multiple sessions in a particular location.

Plan 6, 30-45 minutes long, observations to gather critical amount of qualitative data.

For  min

4 Prepare trigger questions and props.

User observation is the opposite of a sale pitch! Your role is to listen. Less you talk, more you learn. The purpose of a spoken word during an observation is to keep the momentum and to stay on topic. The most useful trigger question is “Why?”.

About props.
Sometimes it helps people to start sharing when you provoke them with a prop. For example, you can bring a piece of cardboard, size of a computer screen, with a quick black marker sketch of the catalog layout. You can pull that out during the interview and say: Imagine this was a window to all shoes on the American market, what would you do with it? Why do you say that?... You can also plan to use props in user’s environment. You could walk with the user to their closet and ask how they create outfits and how they match shoes with them...

5 Choose your observation partner.

Users share the most valuable insights when they are certain you are listening. Decide who will lead the observation and who will record the observation. The main role of the leader is to actively listen, to pay an undivided attention to the user. The role of the leader is also to ask questions or to make comments, but only to keep the momentum or to stay on topic. The role of the recorder is to take notes, observe the surroundings, keep an eye on timing and manage the recording technology if any.

Thank you for filling out this form. Click submit to view your custom User Observation Plan. You can create as many of these plans as you like. Good luck!