User needs identification: you don't know what you don't know?


Hi there,

As I’ve mentioned on a previous post, I’ve just started working on my portfolio and have picked a hypothetical project. However, I’m running into some sorts of issues regarding the identification of the users needs.

Basically I have identified a problem based on my own experience of a well-known music app, and based on me observing my friends running into a similar “problem”. I have built a survey where I try to understand to what extent people use the functionality I think could be improved, and to understand whether they are satisfied with it and what they would expect from it, etc…

So far, all the answers are positive: they are satisfied with the functionality. They think it’s fine and don’t see how it could be improved as it just do what it’s supposed to do.

At first, I was of course disappointed. But now that I had time to think about it, I wonder how I should tackle that. After all, I assume that users don’t know what they don’t know (I may also not have asked the right questions).

So I was wondering if anyone had some stories to share about how the user needs wasn’t that obvious and was the result of a lot of assumptions and hypothesis, and how they went to validate these hypothesis.

Thanks guys!


Good morning,

I don’t have any specific advice for you but a suggestion. Would you be able to post your survey here?


Thanks for the suggestion Piper!

Here is the link to my survey:

Happy to get any feedback!


Hi there!

I think you’d get more valuable information from a usability test if you think there is a problem with the design. As many people when filling out surveys don’t recall their most recent experience and give an overall feeling of satisfaction or thoughts. As an avid Spotify user, I know that things frustrate me sometimes, but right now I can’t tell you what they are unless I run into them again… I don’t even know what task I was trying to complete to tell you where it is. :wink:

So, maybe putting together a usability test protocol trying to accomplish the tasks around where you saw this “problem”. I am imagining that this “problem” has to do with some sort of goal with playlists based on your survey? So maybe the task would be “create a playlist including 3 of your favorite songs” and see what they do. Granted, I don’t know the whole story since you’re not including your hypothesis here, but I think this would give you more insight than a survey. You could even do the same task across different music playlist apps to compare who handles it better or where the “problem” arises.

I hope this helps. :slight_smile:


Hi Stephanie,

Thanks for the suggestion. I did think that the survey might not be the right tool here - after seeing the results - and was thinking of something like a diary study / usability test.

I’m going to try this out.

Just to give more context (and make sure the usability test would work here), my idea is the following: I find that when it comes to playlist creation, be it for a party, for a trip, for your commute or for the gym, spotify and the others could actually offer more features to make it easier to select music (e.g. Pre-built playlists by demographics / by type of event and duration ; enabling your community to give their input before or during an event just using their mobile). But if my users are saying “the current functionality is fine, I’m satisfied with it” then it makes me question whether my idea should be implemented, or whether I should consider thay my users just don’t know that they want this. What is the typical approach to have about needs in UX Design?



Thanks so much, the context helps me a lot in order to help you!

You could consider interviewing people and asking what they did the last time they went on a trip (or hosted a party, etc.) and created a playlist, and to describe their process to you. Learning about what they did, why they did it, etc. Start off with a kick-off question like “Describe a time you went on a trip and created a playlist.” Then keep asking them why they did x,y,z, why they chose certain music, etc., letting them lead you on their journey of creating playlists.

What I am suggesting would follow Indy Young’s Practical Empathy listening sessions format. Here is her website with all the resources available:

This will help you learn about the challenges they had when they created a playlist and if there is a difference between what they did depending on the context (e.g., trip or gym).

Does this help? You will learn a lot about how people think about creating playlists and what they did the last time they did that.


Thanks Stephanie for your help and for sharing some resources! That’s fantastic! :ok_hand:t2::smile:


I agree with Stephanie. Based on what you’re trying to find out a usability test is better suited. You’ll get a lot of information by giving someone a task and then observing them complete the task. What people say is a lot different than what they might do.


You’re welcome! Feel free to reach out if you have any further questions or need some ideas. :slight_smile: