Research will cover a multitude of startup sins
It takes a strong gut and hard data to make it in the real world.
It’s drastically important for business people within modern day culture to understand how to think like a designer.
In talking with friends and family, I’ve found few people understand the difference between art, design, marketing, and the communication sciences as a whole. In light of helping people new to this topic (design within business), here are a few of my thoughts, composed within an educational series of posts; the “Think Like a Designer” series.
These subjects will be kept broad as far as application, and deeper within a philosophical / malleable stance to apply as you see fit within your business. However, the principles remain the same.
User experience and your startup
User experience is everything within the business world. You’re not just putting something that looks good in someone’s path, you’re helping to create, and maintain that path; at every touchpoint of your brand.
You don’t have to be a professional designer, but learning a few of the methods we use to solve real-world problems will definitely help you in your business. There’s a reason why so many CEO’s in tech these days come from a design background.
According to a study, the Oxford Journal Interacting With Computers states:
The goal of UX design in business is to “improve customer satisfaction and loyalty through the utility, ease of use, and pleasure provided in the interaction with a product.”
Some people would agree with this in part, while others deny such a thing as designing for somebody’s experience. Whatever you want to call it, we’re helping to craft somebody’s opinion of the solutions we set in front of them.
This means that every single interaction, or every single part of your business that the customer sees, or works with, is on you. Every graphic, piece of marketing, product, line of code, piece of apparel, customer service process, is all on you!
Dig into research, before you jump!
Now that we understand that every interaction our customer has with our brand is called user experience, how do we create a best-in-class user experience or product that speaks to the customer?
So many people jump into an entrepreneurial endeavor simply because they’re tired of putting up with their boss, or the menial tasks of a day job. I get it. I’ve been there, and I’ve bailed on things before understanding exactly what I was getting into.
Too many people have a “brilliant” idea only to realize after putting a year’s worth of work into it, that nobody cares or wants what they’ve made!
You, the brilliant entrepreneur are now facing a situation of failure, manifested from passion and ignorance…
Before you head down that path, let’s address a couple questions I have for you, to help avoid calamity:
- Have you scoured the competition already operating in the space you’re now interested in entering?
- Have you studied what they do? What they don’t do?
- Have you read reviews to understand how customers feel?
- Have you asked a ton of questions to people in the field currently?
- Have you researched business models, how you’ll operate?
- Do you know what kind of tools you’ll use?
- Do you understand how you’ll manufacture products (physical goods)
- Do you understand how much this endeavor will cost you?
- Do you understand if there is a decent way you can make a profit?
- Have you spoken to your mentors, friends, and family on your idea? (important, but also taken with a grain of salt)
- Do you know if there’s actually a need for what you’re building?
- Are you solving for a pain, pleasure, or innovation?
You don’t have a to be a scientist, just be willing to dig into a lot of Google searches, read articles, Reddit, and start becoming a master in this area. We can do that through the power of technology these days, however a lot of people are still too ignorant. They’re actually aware of their ignorance, and still don’t want to try to figure it out. If this is you, I’m sorry, but I’d respectfully offer that maybe you’re not going to make it as an entrepreneur…you have to understand how to resource things you don’t know or understand. You don’t need to have all the answers, just know how to find them.
You’re not the customer
Still reading? Sweet. Since you are an entrepreneur, hungry for the data on your idea, let’s dig into the second major thing to know before you jump into the deep end with your business endeavor.
You are not your customer. Even if you are, you’re not.
Understanding how to place yourself in your customer’s shoes is pivotal. This is called customer empathy.
Too many people get caught up in their research, and make it all about them. After gaining an understanding for your space, you have to understand the people within it; your target audience. These are the people who pay you, and keep you in business.
I’ve had way too many conversations with CEO’s or top level executives who understand their market, but not their user / customer.
“I think we should do it like this, because that’s how I would do it”.
“I’ve always done it this way before, though.”
Yikes! Recipe for disaster much?
You are not the one paying for your service, product, or cause…the people out there, who you are specifically targeting are, and they have major opinions on how they are willing to spend their money. Are you listening to them, or caught up in your big idea that they don’t want? Maybe you could..
- Join Facebook groups and ask users questions
- Start a thread on Reddit pertaining to your subject
- Interview your friends over coffee; gather ideas from them
- Show your ideas to communities who care / who don’t
- Gather both quantitative and qualitative insights however you can
- If you’re prototyping, perform A/B tests to find what your customers do, rather than just what they say they’ll do (social pressure & wanting to please can affect results)
We must ask ourselves daily if we are operating in a way that serves the customer, or serves ourselves. Which one do you think will keep you in business?
After doing thorough research on both your industry, and your target customer, you can start leading with your gut. This is the fun stuff.
Now, some people might disagree with me here, but I’m a firm believer in well-informed, gut decisions. Sometimes this comes out within style, or a different relative topic within your business, but that’s ok. You’re at a point in your understanding to make those kind of calls.
If you’ve done the hard work within your idea and industry to understand what is, you can now focus on what can be.
Too many people, playing it safe, don’t seem to understand this, and they get left behind with their customers every day. As it’s commonly stated,
“If you’re not pissing somebody off, you’re probably not innovating.” — unknown
Wrapping things up…
Our customer keep us in business, and allow us to have the very life we as entrepreneurs are trying to make for ourselves and our families. Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. This game is a constant battle against yourself, what others “think”, and what you know. The better you can equip yourself with the hard data, the more you’ll understand how to differentiate…
So remember, research the hell out of your idea, and pin-point how business is done today within your interested sector.
Understand how to initiate and innovate within your space, but only built upon the foundation and feedback of customer insights. Solve for their problem, not your opinion. Research is never done by the way, it’s a constant and ever-changing landscape, so don’t sell yourself short by thinking you get it. Always test, always iterate, and always request feedback from real people.
If you take on this mindset, you’ll most likely delight customers, while mitigating risk, all because you’ve done your homework, positioning you to launch amazing solutions in confidence!
Signup here to get my most recent posts sent to your email once a week. I enjoy talking about small business, design, people, and quick tips for those who are just starting into the world of entrepreneurship.
I’m currently a User Experience Designer at eBay, where I work on the Native (iOS+Android) Selling team out of Portland, Oregon. I’ve previously rallied onsite with design teams at Nike, Bodybuilding.com, Intel, as well as freelanced with multiple businesses since 2010. I’m the co-founder of Northwest Beard Supply LLC with my beautiful wife Megan, an avid musician, and weight training junkie.