Understanding Customer Activities

Dr. Donald Norman has suggested a hierarchical structure of activities, tasks, actions, and operations to better understand our customers’ interactions with solutions. In this model, activities are comprised of tasks, which are comprised of actions, and actions are made up of operations. This “activity centered” philosophy is focused on the activity—not the person.  If a customers’ suggestion fails to fit the design model, it should be discarded. Too many companies, proud of listening to their customers, will include requested features that do not really solve the bigger market problems. Only by observing our customers activities—interactions with our products—do we really understand customer’s needs.

Successful product designers understand their customers’ activities to determine how the solution will best operate. Understanding the tasks of the activities helps understand the customers’ intentions. Focus on activities our customers perform rather than their requests. Systems that support the activities must, of necessity, support the people who perform them.

Successful products are those that of the underlying activity, supporting them in a manner understandable by their target customer. Understand the activity, and the solution is understandable.

You can read more in this article – Defining and Designing Technology for People