What does “Users need this feature” mean?

Tim Chan
2 min readJun 1, 2023

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Be vigilant when a stakeholder says “Users need this feature”. It can be interpreted in a lot of ways, a little riddle: Which of the following is true?

  • Users actually need this feature
  • Users say they need this but they don’t actually need it
  • Stakeholder thinks Users need this
  • Stakeholder needs this
  • Stakeholder’s boss thinks Users need this
  • Stakeholder’s boss needs this
  • Stakeholder thinks their boss thinks Users need this
  • Stakeholder thinks their boss needs this

It doesn’t need to stop there. To make your life miserable, throw in the casual “Legal department” and “Regulators”, and combine it with the above.

e.g. Stakeholder’s boss thinks Legal thinks Regulators think Users need this

You get my point.

User research as a weapon

Think designers are better stakeholders? THINK AGAIN. I have seen product teams use “user research” to push their own agenda.

We’ve done the research and users need this feature” is a really good weapon because a) no one in the meeting would have done a counter-research to invalidate this, and b) it is often not socially acceptable to dismantle the research methodology in a 20-person meeting.

Even if you try to challenge the research, you will probably lose the argument, because the other team has all the time to prepare for this meeting. You were not in the research sessions, so you just have to take their word for it. It was all hearsay.

Oh wait, they have done the research. They won!

What could you do? I genuinely haven’t found a solution yet. If you do, please let me know.

Just stay vigilant for now I guess.

Food for thought!

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Tim Chan

Senior Product Designer @EA. I teach designers the softskills to get them promoted. Based in Vancouver, came from Hong Kong