A product that is designed for everyone is designed for no one. It's critical that you determine your primary market and secondary markets and set out to build the best product for those people. You need to understand their pain, their needs, and their desires in order to build the most effective and marketable product for them. But how do you do that?
Walk a Mile in Their Shoes
Nothing beats first-hand experience. Even if you yourself are a part of your target market, you need to validate your experiences by comparing them against the experiences of others. Identify some friendly people you can shadow and interview them to gain feedback for the problem you’re trying to solve. Get them to walk you through their pain, so you truly understand the problem. Have them show you the different ways they work around the problem and get them to describe the perfect solution to you.
All of this information should be documented and used as the foundation for ideation later on. Sometimes, it's helpful to create “personas” to describe your user to the rest of your team. Include a picture of them and describe what they value, what their pain points are, and their general lifestyle. Pin it up on the wall as a reminder for “future you” as to who you’re doing this for.
Start Building a Feedback Network
Remember all of those users you interviewed earlier? You get bonus points if you can convince them to participate in future studies. It’ll save you a lot of time later on. You’ll need to put together focus groups to validate your ideas and make sure that you’re staying true to your users as you make design decisions. Some people offer compensation for participation, but whatever you do, make sure they are giving you honest feedback, good or bad. Some honest, bad feedback today can save you a lot of money tomorrow.
Customers vs. Users
Don’t forget to distinguish between your customer and your user. For many products, these may be one in the same, but there are plenty that aren’t. Take for example the Revibe Connect. This product is designed to be used by children with focus challenges, but those aren’t the people buying the product. Parents and teachers are the decision makers, and it’s just as important, if not more important, to market to them as it is to the children who will be using the device. Just make sure the product still works well in the hands of the user or you’ll find a lot of returned merchandise.
Doing good research is critical to getting your product development started out on the right path. No one wants to spend months or even years designing and manufacturing a product that won’t sell because it doesn’t have a user. Don’t forget to schedule reviews with them throughout your process because user needs will change over time and these users are your north star.
User research is the first step in creating data driven, informed solutions. We’ll cover comparative product research in our next article.