Are you innovating or just discovering what user research could've told you from the start?

Are you innovating or just discovering what user research could've told you from the start?

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Andra Farcău

Andra Farcău




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Key Takeaways

‘Setting things right’ is one of the most common New Year resolutions around the world. Yet at the end of every year, most of us get that odd feeling that things weren’t quite right. Well, your product feels the same, in around 80-90% of the cases. Our promise from this year on is to help you stay committed to your own journey. Yes, by doing the right things first.

Failing to place your user’s needs at the center of your product idea process can lead you into a series of negative situations. Your product risks not being adopted. During the past years, we realized that user research is one of the most critical missing steps in product design and development. While many product owners still think this is nice to have, their investment just pours down into a pool of waste.

User research is not just about design, experience, and interaction. It is about your product and the potential of getting it into your customers’ hands or on their devices. If you don’t hear them out, for sure they won’t be bothered to even acknowledge you.

The logic behind user research is very simple: it helps you understand if your product solves a real problem and if the users are prompt to use it or not.

Researching and understanding users’ needs is the starting point in creating any solution for any industry, no matter the business model or market.

Imagine that Steve wants to create a wellbeing support app.

He really wants to include features like real-time body monitoring, yoga practice, meditation, and counseling. The common trait of the users is that they all are aware of their health or they want to become more aware. But other than that the users can be from all kinds of backgrounds: culture, education, income, demographics, etc. Steve doesn’t really know what’s best: to offer the features all together or separately.

He can try to make an assumption and make risky decisions.

Or he can reach out to the users and try to understand their needs.

As objectively as possible.

The advantage of including the user research stage within your process is that the product and design respond directly to the user’s revealed needs. This way any product owner can gain more clarity in the decision-making process.

Such products designed around users’ needs present a few advantages from products that don’t:

  • are more likely to be used;
  • help more people get the right outcome for them and achieve their goals;
  • cost less to operate by reducing time and money spent on resolving problems.

There are several stages of research in your product development cycle. Missing these stages from the user research can lead to insufficient product adoption and retention. Small details can turn your users off and make them opt out.

User research phases that need to be covered within the product development are discovery, alpha, beta and live. Let’s look into each one of these stages.

1. Discovery

The discovery phase is mostly about understanding your users as well as possible. The discovery phase must happen before doing any planning, design, and building the product.

These are the questions that need to be answered:

  • Who are your users?
  • What do they want to do?
  • What are their problems/ frustrations?
  • How can your product help solve their problems?

After answering these questions and gaining a deeper understanding of what users want, you can start approaching your main product scope and adjust where necessary.

2. Alpha

The alpha phase is about deep diving into the users’ behavior and their end-to-end journey. At this stage, all of your features need to be analyzed against users: tools, navigation, transactions, and any other offline steps.

Within the aims of this stage we can point out the following:

  • Your team's improvement at the level of the user needs understanding.
  • Test different design ideas and prototypes.
  • Figure out how to improve your product facade to help users achieve their goals.

At the end of the alpha stage of research, you should have gained clarity around the diverse pool of users and how you can match your product with their needs.

3. Beta

The beta stage helps in understanding how different users experience your product, what usability and accessibility issues can be fixed, and overall ways to improve your product.

The two major action points at this stage are:

  • Testing the developed product with users to make sure it covers their needs
  • Run tests (face-to-face, accessibility audits, follow-ups, surveys) to uncover what needs to be fixed

This phase is the most suitable time to create a product strategy roadmap that can include:

  1. Context
  2. Value - the promise that solves problems regardless of specific features
  3. Delivery - dependencies, constraints, deadlines, implications of feature choices
  4. Confidence %
  5. Time (last update)

4. Live

The live phase is the time when it all comes together. It extends to things such as transactions, support and any other tools you should consider for a comprehensive service.

In the live phase, all the constraints identified in the beta phase are continuously addressed. Based on the user research, this phase should test the following:

  • Test on a wide range of devices and browsers
  • Test for accessibility
  • Assure quality
  • Make sure the offline channels are up to date with the desired effects of the changes

Once live, the service should intuitively adapt to the user’s journey, yet on a wider scale that provides a unified cross-channel experience.

How did Steve escape the initial risky assumptions?

He decided to follow user research methods that suited his product.

Having to choose from a variety of methods such as:

  • capturing the research questions,
  • contextual research,
  • in-depth interviews,
  • usability test,
  • or small group workshops,
Steve realized that there is wisdom in trial and error.

And that’s exactly what brought him on the right path to create a comprehensive product for the users.

Given the current world situation, remote research through video calls turned out to be a flexible yet insightful method of user research.




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Andra Farcău

From Industrial Technology, Life Sciences to Workforce Management and back, Andra has spent over a decade in various business verticals. She was also our CMO in 2021.

As a visionary professional and tech innovation enthusiast, she recently picked up on Data Science studies to help me develop better strategies for bridging the gap between data management, business intelligence, and marketing.

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