In part two of A Comprehensive Guide To Product Design, I’ll cover research (user research and market research), user analysis (modeling of the users), and ideation (how users interact with the product, the product structure, and UI).
Once the product vision is defined, product research (which naturally includes user and market research) provides the other half of the foundation for great design. To maximize your chances of success, conduct insightful research before making any product decisions. Remember that the time spent researching is never time wasted. Good research informs your product, and the fact that it comes early in the design process will save you a lot of resources (time and money) down the road (because fewer adjustments will need to be made). Plus, with solid research, selling your ideas to stakeholders will be a lot easier.
Product research is a broad discipline, and covering all aspects of it in this article would be impossible. For more information on the topic, make sure to read A Comprehensive Guide to UX Research Methods.
Conduct user research
As product creators, our responsibilities lie first and foremost with the people who will use the products we design. If we don’t know our users, how can we create great products for them?
Good user research is key to designing a great user experience. Conducting user research enables you to understand what your users actually need. When it comes to product research, researchers have a few different techniques to choose from.
Gathering information through direct dialog is a well-known user research technique that can give the researcher rich information about users. This technique can help the researcher assess user needs and feelings both before a product is designed and long after it’s released. Interviews are typically conducted by one interviewer speaking to one user at a time for 30 minutes to an hour. After the interviews are done, it’s important to synthesize the data to identify insights in the form of patterns.
- Try to conduct interviews in person. If you have a choice, in-person interviews are better than remote ones (via phone or web-based video). In-person interviews are preferable because they provide much more behavioral data than remote ones. You’ll gain additional insights by observing body language and listening for verbal cues (tone, inflection, etc.).
- Plan your questions. All questions you ask during the interview should be selected according to the learning goal. A wrong set of questions can not only nullify the benefits of the interview session, but also lead product development down the wrong path.
- Find an experienced interviewer. A skilled interviewer makes users feel comfortable by asking questions in a neutral manner and knowing when and how to ask for more details.
Surveys and questionnaires enable the researcher to get a larger volume of responses, which can open up the opportunity for more detailed analysis. While surveys are commonly used for quantitative research, they also can be used for qualitative research. It’s possible to gather qualitative data by asking open-ended questions (i.e., “What motivates you to make a purchase?” or “How do you feel when you need to return the item you purchased from us?”). The answers will be individualized and in general cannot be used for quantitative analysis.
Online surveys are relatively inexpensive to run. The downside of this method is that there’s no direct interaction with respondents, and, thus, it’s impossible to dive more deeply into answers provided by them.