Published on 2022-10-11

Demographic Bias

Bias exists everywhere and often hard to spot

A collage of colourful face portraits

My very first role as a Product Manager, I was looking after an energy analytics product. We had a very strong team with good User Researcher and a UX person. We followed good product development practices and conducted user research to understand the customer's problem, then we created prototypes to test the solutions. We iterated over the solution until we got to a solution which received good feedback.

As we were preparing for the soft launch of the application we went to different parts of the UK to brief our call centre colleagues on the app. While we were in different cities we also took the opportunity to interview some users and conduct some usability testing.

To our surprise people did not perform well on the usability testing. It turned out not everybody understands graphs and some people were intimidated by them.

After the first day of testing we analysed the feedback and came up with an updated plan for the next day. We wanted to focus on user interviews to understand their problems. It was really eye opening to find out different customers and their pain points. Their underlying feedback was that they wanted to be told simple things like: “am I using more energy than yesterday, last week, last month, last year?”.

Although all of this information was presented to the user visually, they just wanted simple answers!

In the next couple of days we quickly knocked up a wireframe to test at the next city we were visiting. The new wireframes tested better than the visual solution we originally had.

When we got back to London we had a retrospective of our trip around the country. Although we briefed the test user recruitment company to find us a good cross section of users there was a limitation which was the physical location. This meant we had a regional bias already built into it from the start.

Our main learning from this experience (which I have used ever since) is that if you want to make a difference and be valuable to your customer you need to understand their culture, their local norms, behaviours and motivations. This is important within countries as well as between countries and continents.

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