So recently I started my internship and the first thing I was told is that I probably won't meet with users (HR managers) nor do I get their feedback at least in the early stages of the design. I am designing various dashboard features one by one. As for understanding their needs and goals I created personas from LinkedIn job notices and reading couple of articles about what it means to be an HR manager. I am no UX pro, I just finished my first certificates from Interaction Design Foundation and been doing just couple of projects for my university. So I am turning to stack exchange for help.

How would you go about designing and testing without the real users?

EDIT: If someone is having a same problem as I have. I started off with competitor analysis instead, found a couple of sites and set up free accounts. Gonna see what works for them, cross check it among all the sites and choose the things they have in common. Also just talked to our Customer Care person and got some useful insights as far as pain points go.

  • How are you doing now? Would be cool to get an update on your situation :)
    – Martyn
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 9:43
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    So to get as close as possible to the users I went to one meeting but that honestly didn't give me more than I already knew. Couple of articles about HR life gave me a good insight into pain points and needs. After that I took the top 5 companies that use our feature, looked them up on LinkedIn and found corresponding users, checked their bio and their responsibilities. Also got an average of work experience from there, age and other demographics as well. From there I made 2 personnas, combined them with business goals of the feature and created user stories, took it from there, finishing up:) Commented Sep 4, 2018 at 10:16

4 Answers 4


To be honest with you, this happens way more than UX designers would like to admit. Especially at the start of your career, without a more senior UXer, you won't always be able to persuade the business to let you meet users.

You've probably been given some details of what to design on those dashboards, go from there and ask your colleagues why thats needed. Tell them you need to understand the why's before you can design an effective dashboard. Just treat your manager / sales guy / who ever as a proxy for your real user.

See if there are any HR events or meetups. Even if you can't show them anything, listening to their conversations will give you some idea of who they are.

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    I kind of started to realize that as well. I started of with competitor analysis instead, found a couple of sites and set up free accounts. Gonna see what works for them, cross check it among all the sites and choose the things they have in common. Also just talked to our Customer Care person and got some useful insights for pain points. Thanks for the advice though! Found a meet up next week, so I am gonna attend and see. Commented May 24, 2018 at 11:58
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    I feel your pain. Businesses seem to think that a UX education teaches you what users need. Part of our job is to educate our managers and others that we learned instead how to discover those needs. It's sometimes useful to ask those who assign you a project, "What would you like me to base my design decisions on?" (Then suggest that in-person user observation is the best foundation.) Commented May 24, 2018 at 12:53
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    +1 for visit events. Meet potential users if meeting actual users is not possible.
    – jazZRo
    Commented May 24, 2018 at 16:20

In addition to what others have mentioned, try speaking to customer-facing members of your company.

The technical and customer support teams are often an overlooked source of great user insights. These people deal with users everyday and they know their needs and pains very well. You might be able to run tests with them as more often than not they are expert users of the software they're supporting.

As for icons... use labels! No, really. Small labels remove ambiguity.

You could send out a questionnaire (to anybody) where each of the icons are presented with multiple possible answers below. This will allow you to see how representative your icons are. The fact that you're not asking HR staff in particular doesn't matter so much if the possible answers are quite contextual.


Your case is very normal and happens a lot for us as user experience designers.

Here is some tips that can help you in your situation:

First, If you could do some discussions with HR managers from LinkedIn or any other source that would be great.

Prepare your points that you need to discover and start approaching few HR managers with questions to help you discover insights. You can use this guide for creating your questions.

Second, You can do some online research, read articles, find questions and answers on Quora and try to find answers for your questions there.

This tips will help you build some empathy and build your persona with some real insights.


Im not sure if I understand what do you mean by real users ;p

You can test your ideas nearly in any stage.

If you don't have mockups yet but only idea of future wireframes then I would suggest you to try run a meeting with your colleagues to make first concept - get some paper and pencil and let them tell you what they think is important for "real user"

Then I would just try to talk to HR Managers from LinkedIn about your work (ofc if you can't show your work don't do it, but you an always talk about their needs - pains and gains - people love to complain about job ;) And don't forget about HR manager in your company.

  • Yes but I can't test it on our users. As it's a very niche group that I don't have access to. I kind od know what is that their need as I got a brief from our CTO. The thing is I want to test the usability if they get the icons, if I get the right user flow etc.. And can't do that because I can't get to them. I will try to text the guys from LinkedIn though! Thanks :) Commented May 24, 2018 at 12:01

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