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Leveraging research and understanding customers’ needs is the crux of effective product development. You won’t know how to solve a customer’s need unless you know and feel what it’s like to be in their shoes.
To tease out deep-rooted pain points and needs, user researchers always ask open-ended and follow-up questions. They avoid making assumptions by testing early and often, thus making better product decisions for their users.
“My vagina was out of commission for 50% of my life – one week out of every month on my period. The following week with a yeast infection.” Those were Wang’s own words to describe a common problem that many women face every day. To better understand her customers, Wang hosted group dinner parties to hear personal stories and direct user feedback. After years of user research and trying over 30 different products, Wang was frustrated by the lack of innovation for women’s health. These problems prompted her to start The Flex Company, a startup dedicated to creating a product that isn’t a pad or a tampon but a safe, hygienic alternative.
Eventbrite was born out of Hartz’s own pains dealing with buying tickets online. She found the process onerous and expensive. The UX was hard to navigate, the fees were over-the-top, and the ability to self serve was extremely poor. After countless user interviews and research, she started Eventbrite with a laser focus to enhance the end-to-end user experience for online customers. What started as a three-person operation is now an event management and ticketing platform that processes over three million tickets every week.
After being charged a $40 fee on a late rental copy of Apollo 13 at a local Blockbuster, Hastings envisioned a video service free of late fees, a pain that customers like him felt all too well. By putting himself in the shoes of the consumer, he was able to understand a real problem and find a solution to fix it. Netflix filled this need so well that Blockbuster tried to buy them out for $50 million. Netflix declined the offer and is now the leader in the video streaming business with over 150 million monthly paying subscribers.
By taking a methodical approach of asking questions rather than making assumptions, you’ll encounter plenty of surprises and insights that will lead to creative solutions.
Fail fast, learn fast. By testing and validating your ideas early on, you’ll have the opportunity to apply learnings to your next prototype.
By putting yourself in the shoes of your users and seeing the world as they see it and gathering as much user feedback as possible, you’ll be able to spot pain points and solve them proactively.
Empathy is about feeling the way your users feel, not playing with their emotions. Consumers can see and tell when you’re toying with them.
User research isn’t a magical ball through which you’ll be able to see the future. It requires real effort and sincerity.
Conducting a user study doesn’t give you free rein to bombard users with questions. Be thoughtful in your questions and listen more than you talk.
If your interviewee mentions something that is particularly relevant to your research, simply ask them to expand on it. It’s often tempting to paraphrase what they’ve said. But in research, this can actually be a bad thing.
Open-ended questions are those that can’t be answered with a ”yes” or ”no.” They generate discussion and yield insight. By asking open-ended questions, you avoid making assumptions and get far more interesting insights.
Avoid asking people about their user flow, how they feel about stacked navigation, or if you could improve their experience with progressive disclosure. Avoiding jargon may seem like an obvious tip, but sometimes when we work within a field so long we forget that certain terms are jargon, or we use them without realizing it.
Try conducting some ethnographic research, sometimes referred to as “field research.” This UX research method involves visiting your users in their natural habitats for product usage. Conducting onsite observations can lead to powerful insights that would otherwise not have been learned when talking to users in a lab or remotely.
Sometimes the best answers come after a pause. The interviewee may need time to think, and their pause could be a moment of reflection. Or, they might be equally uncomfortable in the silence so they’ll offer more information to fill space. The technique is highly effective.
As a researcher, you have to be conscious of how your own behavior affects the person you are interviewing. Try to avoid reacting strongly to people’s answers, because it’s likely to change how they’ll respond next.