There’s a helpful article at A List Apart about User Experience that breaks down the mysterious process of looking at your site/product from the perspective of your users/customers. Here are a few nuggets of UX wisdom.

The author shares this very visual example he picked up from Bill Buxton.

Bill said, ‘You don’t buy a bike. You buy the right to scare yourself to death’…The people who designed the bike talk about what the bike can do, but the rider wants to find out what she can do.

This is how Specialized offers the bike in their catalog; it’s all about the bike:

But this is how it fits the user’s life and imagination; it’s all about the rider:

Thinking from the potential customer’s perspective is a Zen-like exercise. It requires you to drop your problem-solving role completely, and spend time—at least two hours, or maybe two weeks—engrossed in the world of this person. Stop thinking of them as a “user” of the thing you provide. Think about how and why they accomplish what they want to get done, not how or why they might use your stuff.

Pretend you and your organization do not exist, and study what this person does with all the resources available in her life.

You can wear a groove in your brain thinking through the same old problems defined in the same old way. Rather than looking for differences in how segments use your product, look for differences between the beliefs and behaviors of these segments in real life.

Like the vase and the two faces, suddenly new, less complicated segments will come into focus. For example, rather than categorizing customers of a statistical graphing package by industry and expertise, they might fall into two behavioral segments like “people who think visually and like to sketch what-if situations” and “people who need to communicate a result.”