3 UX Research Tips from a Product Designer Founder

Unlock the secrets to impactful product development through our expert UX research tips. Dive into the necessity of early user research, the art of observation, and the value of candid feedback to refine your product's design and functionality. A must-read for designers and developers aiming to create user-centric solutions.

3 UX Research Tips from a Product Designer Founder

I was pleasantly surprised to see my last post, The Pitfalls of Subjectivity in Startup Founding Teams, resonate with y’ all, and I am happy to continue sharing these bite-sized tips! Let's dive deeper into how to avoid bad form and expand on best practices during product development.

User research isn’t a one-way Slack message to your users saying, “Hey, we just dropped this feature! Got any feedback?”. If that’s how you’re gathering customer feedback, it’s a guaranteed way to get led astray, wasting your time and runway.

User research involves just a few steps, but it takes discipline and rigor to get it right. It starts with neutrally giving a user a prompt, observing their behaviors, and asking objective, open-ended questions. It ends with you mapping solutions to the problems you observed and then repeating the process!

Background: When to Conduct User Research

In product development, you should conduct user research before you ship and not just after. If you only research after you ship the product, you’ll be blocked by engineering and learning about your customer

An ounce of pre-building research is worth a pound of post-building feedback. Catching usability problems can save you countless engineering cycles spent building the wrong thing or the wrong way.

For example, your designs may group data in a way that users need clarification. If you don’t catch this before you start coding, your wrong assumptions may impact your app’s UI, your APIs, and how you model the data in your database. Now, of course, correcting what the user expects will require paying down technical debt.

So, how do you conduct user research before you’ve built a working product?

1. Prototype, Observe, and Interpret User Behavior

Ask your users to take on specific tasks within your prototype. You can spend time presenting an engineered app or whip one up with your designer in Figma in half the time and protect the runway. You will save your engineers' time by not having them design while engineering. Observe how they behave, paying close attention to micro-expressions—like forehead touching, cursor hesitancy, retinal vibration, or sighs of frustration.

Staying neutral through this process goes beyond hiding your excitement. It means not giving any hints. They might turn to you and ask, “How do I do X? ”To which you’ll have to reply neutrally, “How might you do X?” and tell them you’re just here to observe.

2. Asking Open Ended Questions

At the end of them completing the prompt(s), ask them open-ended questions like:

• In what ways would you change your experience if you had a magic

• Was there anything you expected to find in your experience that you didn't?

• What was frustrating about your experience?

3. Encouraging Candid Feedback from Users

You’ll need to encourage your users to feel comfortable sharing critical feedback, knee-jerk reactions, or anything else on their minds.

Typically, people will shy away from hurting your feelings. You must set the stage and make them comfortable to be candid. Mentioning early and often that their candid feedback will help the product development will make them feel valued.

Generate “How Might We’s” (HMW’s) from these insights. How Might We’s questions guide the solutions you develop to the problems you identified during your observation? Prioritize each of the solutions by impact and difficulty. If these solutions don’t gel with your product roadmap, you don’t know your customer as well as you thought you did!

It’s a sign that you need to talk to your customers more. It’s only when you can start repeatedly anticipating what people will say or do during your research that you’re ready to iterate using the research you conducted

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