Why We Need User Research
Where is the efficient design starts? Some of you will say that from creating wireframes and prototypes. I usually start with research.
User research is the important part in creating a successful product. Usually, people are skeptical about this part of the work. But exploring target audience can be quite efficient. Because either we create products for people or we create them for no one. Guessing can work, but it’s a small percentage that will help to achieve the desired goal.
And most important is understand people we design for. So, go out from an office, coffee shop or other cozy places where you are sitting in front of Sketch or Photoshop. And start exploring. Ok, you can stay in your place. But find a time for research before you start creating any mockups and prototypes.
Of course, sometimes it’s hard to make a research when you about creating something completely new on the market. For instance, there are tools in the material world that help with some specific problem. And you decided to create something new in the digital world like the web app or mobile app. And the goal is to optimize the process. So, the main question is to create the best solution that people will understand and they will not be overwhelmed with the interface. And the app will work quickly. And even if they have some kind of restrictions like slow Internet then they still will be able to use your tool.
Even if your target audience is you and you want to fix your own problem. That’s totally fine. Fix your problem and in most of the cases you’ll figure out that you are fixing not only your problem. But maybe and 100, 1000, or even millions of others.
I’ve been to World Usability Day conference this week. One of the speakers from Google told a story how they researched potential users of maps in India. And how Google Maps can work there for people who have unusual transportation problems.
People who started work on this project didn’t understand the problem that well. They pictured commuting and traffic like this.
But the reality of Indian traffic is different.
To make it clear for whom they were going to create a product they went to New Delhi to explore how actually transportation system works there.
They have made open researches. Basically, speaking with people on streets, buses, train stations. Making photos, noticing how people commute and what problems do they have with traffic and how all this organized. How Indian culture, internet speed, devices capacity impacts on user experience.
When research was done only then they created first wireframes. And that wasn’t the beginning of the final design of the product. User tests were started from low fidelity then high fidelity mockups and prototypes until the final design was created.
Within 2 weeks after the launch, there were 10,000 downloads. Why? Because people found a solution to their daily problem.
They solved the problem with the bad connection, so people can download maps and use them offline. The app was created with a small size that achieved with a quite simple design based on standard Android components. So, it helped to use it quickly on 2-3 years old devices with average Internet coverage. It’s cool that they went into details and tried different cellular providers. Also, tested coverage at least in different areas of the city.
Also, they built a feature that allows people know about possible traffic jams and accidents that block traffic in certain districts. For instance, if some kind of protest happens on an Indian street than people simply don’t know it ahead of time. And they can be stuck there in the traffic jam for a half a day or so. So, it’s helpful to know about this in the form of notification or in a news feed.
Any kind of testing should be done during the iterative design process. User tests are helpful. You can explore how people use interface, how they understand interactions, etc. How they complete different tasks. What issues do they still have with the app? What blocks them to achieve desirable results.
Always remember the goal of the product. What problem it should solve. In this case, guys wanted to help people in India get better access to public transport information. They did a lot of stuff, but always remembered the end goal. It was helpful during the research itself to ask the right questions, creating a picture of regular users. Explore their pain points, and requests for improvement of the current traffic situation.
We have great opportunities that sometimes we don’t take into account. The Internet helps research a lot of stuff. All that we need is to do right search requests, systematize knowledge and create a knowledge base to build a product on it.
So, the best what we can do is to learn our target audience, potential and existing consumers or clients. It makes our work meaningful. So, it’s good for both sides.
In the same time, we shouldn’t forget about what we want to create and what is our direction.
User research can fix the direction, make it more optimized and meaningful. But it shouldn’t change it completely. We should have a room for creative work to make things different from competitors. People can say you to do things in the way they used to or exact tools they want to have. It’s not necessary that you need to create that kind of tool. Often people don’t know what they exactly want, what will change their life in a good way. That’s why we should learn to ask right questions.
I hope that this article will inspire you on something good.
Thank you for reading,