Why a solid understanding of people is important in building product

It’s been four weeks of learning product design through the sponsorship of CowryWise and Asa Coterie but it seems the journey just began. Learning product design was an opportunity to explore and discover without letting anything get in my way. My fourth class exposed me to a lot of things regarding products in general. The Key takeaway from the class is that a solid understanding of people is important for one sole reason in the product world — people use products.

So, Imagine you building a product without research about what the product is trying to solve, the users of the product, and whether the product would serve the needs of those users. You went through the stress of building and designing the product, but no one is paying for the value you’re giving out. You’ll not only feel bad but would have wasted a lot of resources without anything to show for it. That can be outrageous! That’s more reason user research is like the heart of every product. It provides an essential foundation for design strategy. It helps you to create an optimal product for users. Most importantly, you’ll have the data to back your strategy and design decisions. User research also helps you to identify early adopters who would use your product.

Many people think a research phase would be a waste of time and money. However, they are unaware of how user research impacts product strategy — from the conception of an idea to the delivery of the product. To change the mindset of your stakeholders from being naysayers to being advocates for user research, you must help them understand how research can add value to their product and that learnings from user research are an indispensable asset to a product team. The discipline of UX research encompasses both generative user research and evaluative UX research. Generative user research is key and should constitute a full-fledged discovery phase, during which you can discover and analyze users’ behavior, needs, and motivations to contribute context and insights to product strategy and design. By using various user-research techniques during this phase, you can better understand users and their needs, which, in turn, helps your team to identify product requirements.

So how do we conduct user research? There are many methods of UX research and analysis that you can apply throughout the phases of the product-development cycle — such as competitive analysis, focus groups, surveys, contextual inquiry, card sorting, journey mapping, the creation of personas and scenarios, participatory design, Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions, and evaluative UX research methods such as A/B testing, design critiques, eye-tracking, and usability testing. Each of these UX-research methods has its benefits and drawbacks. They are useful in achieving different goals. So choosing the right UX-research methods depends on the project’s requirements and constraints. Applying the appropriate UX-research techniques within the constraints of one’s project’s practical parameters is of paramount importance in ensuring a high-quality research plan.

A research question that tells a story is very important when researching because it eradicates the process of boring the respondents and helps them flow with your research which in turn enhances accurate feedbacks. Time seems to fly by on a project, especially with agile development methods being so prevalent these days. Skipping the user-research stage — because of time constraints or for any other reason — can have serious repercussions for companies. Is it possible to create a product if you do not know what problem it will solve for users? However, rather than skipping UX research altogether because of time and budgetary constraints, one can consider employing the following research methods instead:

  • lean UX
  • guerrilla research
  • minimum viable research
  • heuristic evaluation
  • expert review
  • hypothetical personas

It is a tragedy that the software industry is not cognizant of the value of UX research in devising brilliant, unique solutions to the problems we confront in product design. In my opinion, UX research is no longer optional. We must conduct UX research to ensure seamless, valuable user experiences or submit to inevitable product failure. One of the key reasons why most products fail is because companies did not invest time and money in user research. They started with a feature list or an idea but did not take the time to understand the problems users would face when using the product.

Looking forward to conducting user research for products that would create an impact and make the world a better place.