What is User Needs?

A user need is a well-defined statement of what your service or program empowers people to do. User needs are a framework for understanding both the big picture needs (the reason your service exists!) and the implementation details of how people can successfully use your service. They form the boundaries of what your service or program does and doesn’t do.


We can’t assume to know what our users need.  After all, people are complicated! Technology is complicated. And how people use technology changes all the time.  While users might be complicated, discovering their needs is not.  Every user need begins as a hypothesis—an attempt to describe the context our users carry with them. Through user research and a close look at user behavior we can determine if our hypothesis holds, or if we need to revise it.

This brief four-page guide offers an overview of research methods and examples of how to collect information on user needs to improve services and programs.