How To Do Proper User Research



Not realising a product’s value is one of the primary reasons why that product will fail. People are dreamers in that they assume what is valuable to their customers instead of verifying it. But the truth is that any product is a risk. By actually going out to see if your target market actually needs your product, you will be amazed to find out that your target market might not need your product.

User research is how you verify that you’re on the right track with your value proposition. There are lots of ways to do it—ethnographic field studies, contextual inquiries, focus groups, diaries and journals, card sorting, eye-tracking, personas, and more . Those are all old methods and it doesn’t get the job done. I will be describing Lean Startup, I term used by Eric Ries

Validation is the main method of the Lean Startup business approach. Validation is the process of confirming that a specific customer segment finds value in your product. Without validation, you are simply assuming that customers will find use for your product. Validated user research goes beyond just observing and establishing empathy for potential users. It is a process based on a reality-check that focuses on direct feedback from interaction with users. It helps you to determine if the vision of your product is a dream or a potential nightmare.

Define your primary customer segment

Because you and your team are launching an innovative product, you are starting with zero customers. Therefore, if you think your customer is everybody, think harder. Otherwise, you’re facing an uphill battle in customer acquisition. Which is easier: getting everybody to use your app, or getting people who really need it to sign up?

The customer is a group or segment of people with a common need or pain. Your primary customer’s pain point must be severe, because there is a lot of risk involved in trying to change how people do something in a familiar way to an unfamiliar one in an uncontested market space.


Identify your customer segment’s (biggest) problem

The problem should be a specific one that a specific customer segment is having. Nonetheless, you need to acknowledge that you and your team are working solely on assumptions, and that’s just the reality of where you begin when making a product. You make assumptions about your users, their needs, and how to solve them.


Create provisional personas based on your assumptions

Personas can be a helpful tool in giving stakeholders and the product team an empathetic sense of what the end user’s needs, goals, and motivations are. In this way, they can make a product more user-friendly.

The provisional personas will collect and present the assumptions you are making about your primary customer segment. Therefore, all information will be contextual to the hypothesized customer and relevant to the value proposition.


Conduct customer discovery to validate your solution’s initial value proposition

Customer discovery is a process used to discover, test, and validate whether a specific product solves a known problem for an identifiable group of users; it is essentially conducting user research. You want to actively listen to people and engage them because your goal is to uncover the specific problem that they need solved.


Reassess your value proposition based on what you learned

Based on the research you collected you can see if you are on the right track. You can see where you fell short or what change you need to make.

Now that we have feedback, you and your team, need to make some decisions, because one of three things should have happened:

  • You did not validate your customer hypothesis. Therefore, you need to pivot on who you think your customers really are.
  • You did not validate the pain point your customers were experiencing. Therefore, you need to pivot on the problem.
  • You validated both your customer and your problem hypothesis and are feeling pretty good about your solution’s value proposition.