The center of all digital transformations will always be people. That is why it’s extremely important to keep your users at the forefront when creating digital products and services. However, putting yourself in someone else’s shoes is easier said than done — your perception will always be limited by your knowledge, experiences, and motivations. This is where user research comes in handy, to get down-to-earth insights to point your products towards the right direction. Below, we will explain the 4 crucial points to look out for when conducting user research to drive any digital product or service to success.
Who are the users?
A product or service should be shaped by its users — who they are, how they behave, what their needs and intentions are. Needless to say, these characteristics change per product or service. For example, an enterprise tool planned to be dominantly used by employees in their fifties should consider the possibility of its user’s lack of digital experience and decreasing eyesight, whereas a gaming app targeting children under the age of six may have to stick to visual cues rather than text to navigate and engage its users. Whether through creating personas or interviewing target users (or hopefully both), it is important to begin your process by truly understanding whom your main users are and validating any prior assumptions you have, as to create something that will be relevant to them. Once you have this information, you will be much better positioned to create hypotheses to base your product or service on, rather than flying blindly.
For example, as part of an effort to launch multi-brand fragrance retailer L’atelier Des Parfums’s operations online, we surveyed some of its existing offline store customers. We learned that most customers didn’t buy the same fragrance twice, and always purchased a different product — an insight we would have overlooked if we didn’t conduct the survey.
Are we solving the right problem?
A key step to solving any given problem is to discover the root cause. What we usually find is that problems presented on a surface level are often symptoms caused by other, deeper problems — where the base problem is rarely the one identified first. For meaningful impact, we must determine then tackle the root that will help eradicate all other resulting issues.
To get the full picture of what we are trying to solve, we find it a top priority to get all stakeholders involved, especially taking the time to listen to the end-users. Ultimately, if your end-users are unconvinced by the product or service you’ve built to solve their perceived problem, it will never stick.
A good example is an enterprise tool we created for Bulgari to streamline their processing of after-sales product repair inquiries. Each stakeholder involved in the various points of the after-sales journey had a different stance on what was affecting the efficiency of processing the inquiries. By listening to each stakeholder, we made sure all relevant issues were being addressed and the voice of all users — customers, store staff, and service center members — were properly integrated into the solution.
Is our product or service heading on the right track?
In the previous two points, the focus has been on the benefits of incorporating user research in the earlier phases of product or service development — but its utility doesn’t end there. Now that you’re further down the road, it’s time to user test and validate (or invalidate!) your solution, whether it’s wireframes, prototypes, or existing products. Keep an eye out for how users actually behave when interacting with your product or service, what they are confused by within the experience, and if anything is clearly misaligned with their expectations or needs. Verbal feedback is of high importance, but seeing how people actually use your product will give you the best insights for improvement.
We did just this by conducting user testing, both in-person and remotely for iRobot, in order to identify existing pain points before they completely revamped their website. Among many things, we discovered visitors were having difficulties finding essential product information due to confusing UI elements such as sliders, deterring them from making a purchase on-site.
Repeating this process on a frequent basis is the best way to iterate on your product or service until it reaches it’s ‘final’ form. It saves you a lot of money and time, as well as prevents you from making big, irreversible mistakes.
Where should we optimize or improve?
Finally, once your product or service is shipped, you can continue to user research by gathering information on who your users are and how they interact with your product to further optimize the experience. For example, you can identify issues such as pages with high exit rates on your eCommerce website, which was the case for jewelry brand Pandora. We helped them tackle this bottleneck by improving the clarity of certain pages’ user experience by adjusting its layout.
On the other hand, with proper analytics set in place, you will also be able to identify areas of opportunity such as new demographics trickling in as potential target users. By determining both problems and new opportunities, your product or service can adapt according to the changing needs of your users as well as to the ever-evolving times.
All great digital products and services revolve around the end-user. Putting them at the front-and-center throughout the entire journey of creating a product or service will ensure that you are solving real-life problems in a feasible yet effective way. Listen to what your users have to say — it’s that simple.