Designing a product is not just about being in charge of its aesthetics, but actually making sure it is useful and usable. If your design doesn’t solve a problem for your users, they will not even bother to notice nice colors and images you prepared. User research is there to validate your design flow and that you are going in the right direction.
So, let us start straightforwardly: user research can be, and should be performed from the very beginning and throughout the whole design process. Different user research methods are suitable for different product development phases, and you should choose between them in accordance to the goals you set.
If you approach user research appropriately, you will soon find out that it is not just one of the boring boxes you have to check in order to move on with designing. Actually, user research can be equally creative as the design itself. Most importantly, user research should not be neglected in your design process since it is crucial for:
1. Removing assumptions
You may think you know your targeted user group very well, but you actually can never be sure what are popular trends, problems and wishes if you don’t ask people about it. Some things might seem obvious to you, while further investigation and interaction with your users might prove you wrong. For example, even though you are a runner by yourself e.g. and know a lot about running community, it doesn’t mean that most of runners will find useful to have an additional music player integrated in their running app. You have to ask them first in order to find out and, if they agree, test later how easy for them is to use it. Namely, there is no better way to make your assumptions legit than by performing user inquires.
2. Staying empathic
If you are not ready to let empathy in, maybe it is better not to even bother with designing anything other people are supposed to use. Namely, as a designer you should always have in mind persons who will use your product – who are they, what are the troubles you are solving for them, will it be easy and intuitive for them to use your product. The key to find out users needs, backgrounds or wishes lies in user research, of course. Note: actually listening and just observing your users is not really the same thing.
3. Constant review and improvement
Different phases of product design may require different research approaches, but for the whole process an ongoing and constant communication with users is priceless. When it comes to user research, there is no too early or too often. Actually, if you introduce your product to your users too late it can be highly risky and potentially very costly. Also, user comments are not just some kind of unnecessary interruption or distraction of product development, but on the contrary, very important part of your design process. Once the production phase is over, it is usually too late to ask users for their opinions.
The end tip: Mind the gap between gathering research data and actually implementing them in your design. The real value of information collected during user research lies in directing your design process towards the users needs and expectations.
Usability testing is very important part of user research and earlier you perform it, more effective design process you will get. KonceptApp is great tool you can use for performing usability tests on your product prototypes. Don’t hesitate to find out what your users think and how they behave!