Active vs Latent Needs

Active needs are the problems (or more often requests) customers bring up. For example: I need to be able to export. Add a button there for export. These are legitmate concerns but latent needs are where the value lies. Latent needs are the underlying problems that customers cannot or do not voice.

Until you realise there is a problem, you can't ask for a solution or maybe you don't believe a solution is possible. That's where UX research & design needs to come in.

"The more latent needs we identify, the more value we add." - Jared Spool in T-How to shift from tactical to strategic UX research

I had experienced this difference in practice before (or more accurately, experience getting stuck in active customer requests without the chance to address underlying problems that aren't asked for) but never heard labels applied until the above mentioned talk by Jared Spool. I think it's a crucial distinction to bear in mind because I have definitely been guilty of not zooming out to ask why and see the larger problem after identifying or hearing what seened like the need in research. Especially as there is a grey area in that the active need can be real too but it's not always easy to convince others (or see for yourself) that there are bigger problems unless you conciously explore the area.

This is where [[!Qualitative research]] is crucial to help read between the lines and spot issues people may not be able to articulate themselves. But equally important is what you do with that research and how you analyse it. An interview will likely turn up more active than latent needs and it's up to you to find the gaps and research those with users.