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Conduct user research


Your ability to solve customer problems defines your competitive advantage. User research is a practice that enables businesses to learn more so they can better solve problems.

You're more likely to satisfy your customers or employees if you understand their needs, gripes, opinions and pain points. This holds true when building digital products and services (apps, websites, Alexa skills etc).

If you're looking for case studies, here's a few.

The first one is Fender, who make guitars. They discovered that more girls are buying guitars because they are influenced by an increasing number of female artists. They also realised that girls don't fully appreciate guitar shops because they are male dominated. So they used this research to create a strategy that targets female guitar buyers and helps them buy and learn guitars using digital technology. See this article about Fenders' mobile strategy on our blog.

Another case study is Travis Perkins - a builders merchant. They learned that builders are time-poor and would benefit from tools to make their lives easier. So they built mobile apps to help them. Not only did they research their customers, they also involved them in the app design process. Cool stuff.

Let's talk more about conducting user research. You may have heard of Design Thinking, which is an approach to solving problems for customers. The first step of Design Thinking is empathise, which essentially means learn about people in order to understand the problem you're trying to solve better.

There are many techniques for conducting user research. Some that we recommend are:

  • Asking potential customers questions (user interviews)
  • Holding discussions with many people face to face (focus groups)
  • Invite people to complete surveys on social media
  • Observing staff of customers carrying out work tasks (aka day in the life)

Findings may be shown as persona documents and transcripts which can then inform design decisions for your digital product or service.

To learn more about this, one good source is the UK Government Digital Services guidelines.

It's worth noting that IBM is offering their online Design Thinking course for free right now (April 2021). Recommended.

Finally, it's worth noting that doing user resarch requires some skill and expertise, so you should try it out on projects that can afford the risk and develop your user research capabilites. Also, it takes time for teams to understand and get value from user-research, so don't expect everynoe to "get it" overnight.

Our opinion

Adopt  We wouldn't hesitate to adopt this and would use it ourselves when appropriate.