I’m going to start by explaining what User Research is not. Why? Because if you can’t “imagine” the basic meaning of “user” and “research”… you should not read this. Yet. But if you can visualize an ethereal concept just from putting both worlds together “user” and “research” then you might enjoy the rest of this post.
User research and market research are not the same thing. One is about the “mainstream” buyer information like price, names of features, what the competition has to offer and how it offers it. User research on the other hand is the feedback of a user centric perspective. So a great example would be a toy for toddlers. User research would focus on the child and think of the child as the “user” were as the market researcher would focus on the adult that would buy the toy. A child would want a “cool” thing, a parent would like an “educational safe thing”. Market research wants to know how much money parents are paying for “these kinds of toys”, user researcher is observing how these toys are played with, when and why.
Another great differentiation is that the user researcher is not the product manager or the designer. There are a few good reasons for this, the main one is removing bias from the research process, the less emotionally invested you are with the product design, the easier it is to evaluate it fairly. It is a terribly difficult process. Design takes guts and courage, and it’s hard to detach yourself from your brain babies, whereas cold user research might provide great inspiration, it requires a compliant unconscious.
When researching a product, the general path requires keen observation, but it’s hard to know what to observe if you don’t have a path of what to observe for depending on the stage on which a product is. These are the stages shared by Megan Kierstead on the super cool course on user research shares a manslonian (Derived from Maslow) path to know “what to look for” in every stage of product development. And I’ll compare it to the stages in the evolution of a well known product: The Car.
It is a scientific process. This means it parts from a model or structure that includes abstracting key measurable variables from what you can “see” and “measure” in a user. In more than one occasion you might find yourself researching multiple user personas.
The data-based approach to this is creating and mapping out high density “variable” clusters from user analysis to then define specific user personas. These variables can be:
User research is about empathy backed up by data to tell the product designers where their next most valuable “move” is. This means that there is a ton of observation but also a production of actionable information that will methodically decrease the risk of investment in a product, methodically increase the chances of customer delight and user delight as these might be two different people,
Concrete ways you can “move the needle” in your organization:
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