You need to learn about user value because up until now chances are you’ve been focused on ‘social value’. That means ‘solving social problems’. That’s cool, and that’s why we’re all here, right? But on it’s own, social value is not enough…
‘User value’. You may have heard of it. Or you may have an idea of its meaning just in the words ‘user’ and ‘value’.
However, we’ve found it means different things to different folk. And that sometimes people confuse it with ‘social value’ or ‘social impact’.
This confusion comes from thinking that if a product improves a user’s life then it improves society too. So user value is seen as leading directly to social value.
Well yes, and no.
Social value is about how a product solves a social problem but user value is about how a product meet’s a user’s definition of their wants and needs and how it fits into their life.
At a grittier level user value is about their experience of using a product or service and the immediate benefits to the user. Those benefits may be good for society, but user value is specifically about what happens when they actually use it.
User value: a measure of the benefit a user gains from a service or product. This could be functional (e.g. time saving), emotional (e.g. feeling less anxious) or social (e.g. recognition).
James Boardwell, Head of User Research, Coop Group
Mario Kart & co provide some examples
Here’s some examples of user value from common apps that you use:
- Super Mario Kart: adrenalin rush, portable (play on the move) or play with friends (connection to others), new battle mode is here at last (big rush)
- Facebook: feeling connected to friends, accessible on any mobile device, customisable notifications to suit interests
- LinkedIn: keeping in touch with old colleagues, progressing my career, accessible from a personal device
- Instagram: attention from strangers, nice pictures, sharing visual moments with friends, works with smartphone camera
Why is User Value important?
It’s easy to focus only on social value. It’s what we’re good at in the third sector!
But without user value your users won’t use your digital service or product. And if they won’t use it then social value goes down the pan, regardless of your good intentions.
Nominet Trust describe user value as the degree to which people will actually choose to use your product. Choice matters. Your service must create a product or service that has a strong enough proposition to secure their choice.
Every person that uses your product or service has needs and wants. They have expectations that what you’ve made will help them do something very specific. These expectations can be both rational and emotional. When designing something for them, it’s so important to take these into account.
Darshan Sanghrajkha, Super Being Labs
Examples: User Value in Tech for Good products
Big White Wall create user value through making users feel safe and free to express their feelings, and by connecting them with others who know what it feels like.
Olio creates it by making it easy to sign up and making users feel good about food waste, knowing they are saving society money.
Mind of My Own creates it via a friendly interface, useful prompts and helping users feel listened to by their care team.
What makes good User Value?
Here’s some common examples.
- Onboarding (signing up and getting started) is swift and reassuring to the user: “I feel like this product cares for me”.
- It’s easy to navigate on devices common to the user group: “It’s as simple to use as my other apps”.
- Delivers on the promise made to the user in its marketing: “It solves a problem I have; it feels trustworthy.”
- It fits into a user’s world: “It knows when i might need to use it. It might even reminds me it’s there at the right time”
- It shows consideration for user’s particular needs: “It considers how i might be feeling when i use it e.g. it appears discreetly on my phone or gives me an easy web-based option to access”
Put all these together and you’ll have a product that people are likely to choose to use.
How to build User Value
Creating a product that delivers user value can seem complex and daunting the first time round. But it’s ok, because there’s some common methodologies that break the process down into small manageable chunks and guide you through each design and build stage.
- Agile methodologies help us focus on building the things that matter most to users, and to build iteratively, rather than specifying every build element up-front like we used to.
- User centred design remind us to begin by understanding our users and carrying out good user research, that anyone can do
- Questioning assumptions about how the solution needs to look, feel or behave. Traditionally in the sector we’ve been led to believe that having a strong idea is important. While this is still true it’s only useful if we question our assumptions about it with the same intensity
- Lean methods help us remember that, at least in the early days, learning has the greatest value, not deliverables. Learn through building, measuring, learning.
- Prototyping (or ‘skateboarding’ as CAST call it) reminds us to build something small and test it first to find out what has user value
Take it one step at a time
Don’t worry if ‘user value’ or the other terms I’ve mentioned still feel unfamiliar. This blog is here to help you learn! Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be sharing the experiences of 2018’s thirteen funded projects in ways that bring these concepts to life. Stick with us, or sign up below.