Finding Product Opportunities with User Research

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In this ProductTank talk, Andrew Harder talked about common problems that product teams face in finding and choosing opportunities to pursue. He illustrated ways that user research can provide a deep understanding of user needs and help keep product discovery on track by knowing what questions you can and can’t ask of users, as well as value of conducting that research as early as possible (i.e. before you have have a prototype!)

Andrew is currently a Design Researcher and Experience Strategist at eBay, leading their international user research, but has a long history working at various startups, Nokia and the Ministry of Justice Digital Service.

As such he’s spent a lot of time thinking about how to adopt and change research practices to ensure you have an impact in the organisation.

The recurring challenge he’s seen in all these organisations is how you know you’re building the right thing for your users.

Our first instinct as product people is to go talk to our users, and then turn those inputs into product requirements. But should we always listen to our users? Andrew argues that there are two completely different approaches to involving users in finding opportunities, depending on whether your product idea fits in to existing user behaviour vs new user behaviour. Existing behaviour is things like Uber taking on taxis, Net a Porter moving fashion shopping online, etc whereas new user behaviour is things like the first iPod, iPhone and Twitter – totally new ideas and behaviours.

Therefore these two approaches define how you can reach out to your users for involvement in the discovery process. For existing user behaviour you can follow a discovery approach and very closely involve your users in the process, discovering new opportunities in the pain points they have with existing solutions. For new user behaviour however, it’s important to recognise that users can’t know what they don’t know, so here you have to switch gears to a creative approach where you prototype and test solutions you think will have an impact, and get your users’ feedback on those prototypes.

Watch this insightful talk for more detail and examples of the different approaches, whether you’re looking at researching an idea for existing behaviour or building something brand new this will be a great start!

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