The Key to an Empathetic Product

First of all, why is empathy so important when building products? What does this word even mean from a product standpoint? When you’re building a platform, an app, or anything that a large number of people will use, the goal is to be empathetic while building it. It’s important to look at the product from the different viewpoints of people that will actually use it, rather than be closed-minded about the process. User research helps bridge the gap between the product and its users. Knowing how to leverage user research is the key to an empathetic product, which is why I’ve laid out a brief user research strategy below.

I. Why is user research important?

User research is important because it helps you understand the people you are building products for. Without understanding the wants and needs of a user, you run the risk of building a product they don’t actually need.

User Research helps us understand people’s lives in a better way to transform their needs into products.

A common phrase is to “test early and often” in the context of user research. Put simply, it means starting with a minimum viable product, validating it with users, and using gathered data to inform future designs changes.

User research is important because it focuses on real needs, defines the features needed to address those needs, and prioritizes what changes should be made.

II. What type of user research should we do?

There are three main user research techniques that I use regularly. I have laid them out in chronological order below. If you’re not starting from scratch, evaluate where you are in the process of building your product and choose which step of user research to take next. If you need help, feel free to reach out to me!

Ethnographic Research

Ethnographic research involves interviewing potential users in order to understand people’s motivations, needs, and pain points. These interviews mostly revolve around open discussion about the participants’ day to day life and move into potential pain points that your product could solve.

Prototype Testing

Prototype testing is useful for identifying what works and what doesn’t when it comes to solution design concepts. In this type of interview, participants will identify pain points in prototypes, which will allow you to tweak your mockups before moving on to high-fidelity designs.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves watching your users complete a set of tasks on your site or application. This includes testing processes like purchasing, registration, forms and finding content. It’s also a great way to test the language and labels on your site to see if you are using menu labels that are intuitive for your users. There’s no substitute for watching users actively use your site. You gain insights into why parts of your site aren’t performing and more importantly how to resolve them.

III. Actionable Steps

  1. Create a list of people willing to participate in user research
  2. Identify the type of user research needed at the product’s current stage
  3. Draft question concepts for each type of user research
  4. Conduct user research
  5. Analyze data for user research
  6. Identify how the data changes the current product

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