To better understand the users I create a customer survey. I will ask demographic questions, as well as some high level product and feature questions. This helps to gain an understanding on how users are using the product, who they are, and what is important to them. I then organize this data into a inforgraphic so it is easily accessible and understandable to other members of the company.
It is important to talk directly with users to get a deeper understanding of their wants and needs. I do this through user interviews. Asking users to describe experiences and documenting the things that are helpful and unhelpful to them. I then ask them to rank those things to determine how helpful or painful a particular tasks is. This lets me quickly identify areas that need the most improvement.
Based on the information I learn from the surveys and user interviews I create user personas as a reference for everyone to help empathize with the needs of users.
Next I identify what our competitors are doing to solve these problems, and what are the user experience trends to address the issues our users are having.
After I've narrowed down the problem and have clear requirements around what needs to be created, I create flowcharts and wireframes to map out the flow, content, and interactions of the product.
It is important to put concepts in front of users as often as possible. I do this through user tests and prototypes. For smaller features and tests, I may use a rapid testing tool such and Usability Hub. For more in depth features, I may test the user in person, or remotely, using various tools to capture their feedback.