Thursday, June 13, 2013

The power of end user research for product designers.

When I began my job a little over one year ago, titled new product innovation, I was to some extent a novice. So I spent a good deal of weekends and evenings learning how to establish a strong product innovation process. I did not want to just dive into searching for some good new product ideas, but instead create processes that would sustainably deliver ideas for breakthrough products for any years to come.

When I assess my first year on the job, one major achievement stands out in terms of achieving this goal. Equipping my organization with the ability to carry out end user research any day of the year. This capability has become the foundation of our product innovation process. End user research is the one activity that always delivers new insights - information such as pain points and unmet needs that often people did not even realize they had.

I have become a bit of a fanatic. I truly believe that end user research is the only way to begin product development, and I doggedly refuse to go about kicking off a product project any other way.

End user research is simply the act of understanding the people you aim to develop a product for and how they currently complete the task your product is targeting. There are more methods of doing this work than I will perhaps ever be able to learn, and there is an art to selecting the right method for the right output you seek. For me, there is nothing like going into someone's home and observing as they carry out the task we are trying to make easy by means of a new product.



What is perhaps most exciting is that you can get these insights by interviewing a small number of people. This graph shows the sample sizes required, provided your sample consists of the right target audience. Once you go beyond 6 users there are diminishing returns.


How can you get started? I list a few resources here on this blog that I have used and highly recommend. Our consumer insights researcher recently found this Google Ventures video that is an excellent primer with extensive detail.

One note. It is important to remember what this methods does and does not give you. The insights are directional, it is in no way a replacement for some quality quantitative research when you are looking for statistically significant data.

So go get researching, you are perhaps just 20 hours away from having collected some critical insights that will direct your vision for a new product design.

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