Doing User Research

Three months ago, Martin, Jing and I began working on a project —to build an app that records and stores your travel itineraries. Right from the start, we stressed on a user-centric approach in the app development process. We always put ourselves in the shoes of the user, picturing ‘the problem’ they face, which was our approach to solving ‘the problem’.

We believe that by solving a problem we face, we will solve the problems of many potential users. Although this may work, it was problematic in being a top-down approach. Who exactly are our target audience? Do they face the same problem, and is it a pain to them? Therein lies the need for user research.

User research is a bottom-up approach that seeks to understand the precise needs of a user. Sure, usability tests when the app is ready will help us better understand and tailor to our users, but what I am raising here is the importance of research before we even get to building our app. What can you get out of it?

  1. Find out the prevalence of ‘the problem’ to your target audience.
    Do they find it a problem? Is it a need for them? How big is your potential user base?
  2. Is your solution the best approach?
    How are users dealing with the problem? Are they using other apps or products that help cope with the problem?
  3. Help identify the precise ‘pain point’ faced by your TA.
    Which aspect matters most to them? How can you design the app in a way that is relevant to users and delights them?

The findings will give a clue as to whether it is a problem worth solving. More importantly, it will help shape the structure of the app, and hence it should precede app building.

We only realised this on hindsight, but we may not have done it differently (hindsight bias at work). It was a top-down approach where we decided how the app should work, albeit with some informal research from talking to friends. Some qualitative and no quantitative data guided our progress thus far. And you can help us by completing the survey here :)

To share with you briefly on what this app is about…
Journic is a travelogue creator that will easily record your past or present trips as itineraries to share with friends.

P.S. This was rewritten from this article that touches more on the top-down vs the bottom-up approaches. Feel free to chat me up if you are keen to find out more about Journic.