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Don’t Mess These Up: Problem, User Needs And Product Features

Learn how to build your product solution and features with a clear focus on what your users really need.

Photo by Yung Chang on Unsplash

When you are launching a product you want to have a clear understanding of what you are building and how it can be relevant to your user. But you need to make sure you are consistent throughout the development and not only at the beginning of the journey.

Many of the current design and business creation frameworks focus intensely on defining the problem that users have before developing any solutions. That’s the case of Design Thinking or Lean Canvas, which provide methods and tools to surface the user’s pains and struggles early on.

There is great emphasis on doing a lot of user and market research to define the user problem and desired outcome. This is essential to make sure you are on the same page as your user and get to know deeply what they need.

But do you know how to translate that into actual data you can work with?

Why is that important?

I see many products with a clear disconnect from what users need, full of features, many irrelevant to half the users or not bringing enough value to them.

It is important to have a clear link between the problem and user needs, and the product features that you are developing. Here is why you must not mess that up:

  1. You really don’t want to build features nobody wants. It might be clear just after you’ve done all of your preliminary research, but many forget this as they dive into the development of the product and different ideas start to flow.
  2. You might end up with a bunch of design flaws in your product or dead ends because everyone has different opinions on what’s necessary and what not.
  3. If you spend too much time developing your product versions or prototypes just because all features are equally important to you, you will be digging a hole for yourself, the longer you take the deeper the hole.

What can you do?

This simple exercise is what I do to make sure we get the right information from the research and make it usable for our product development process.

The first thing is to define your problem statement which should be part of your research work. Define a problem statement that helps to identify the target user and the particular problem that prevents them from achieving their goal (desired outcome). Here are some recommendations to define a good problem statement:

  • Genuine problem that they have experienced or are experiencing
  • Use a concrete problem and situation where it occurs
  • Include your target customer
  • Do not include your solution or features
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Take this example of the Gopro cameras as a reference where you can see how the above elements are applied to define the problem statement.

“Amateur sport photographers could not get close enough to the action or buy quality equipment at reasonable prices”

It is important to define the problem clearly and to ensure that it is a genuine problem of your customers because this will feed into any decision that you will make with your idea moving forward.

You can think of a particular user case or situation in which you can put the user in the context of the problem to better understand their pains and struggles with a specific situation.

Next, let’s define the User Needs. This is the part that I find more rewarding if you have properly defined your problem statement. You can simply use the sentences from the problem statement and extract the user needs from it. Then adapt the sentences to reflect a need based on the problem or pain they have.

Using the Gopro example above,

Amateur sport photographers could not get close enough to the action or buy quality equipment at reasonable prices

User need 1 — Get close to the action

User need 2 — Record sports and extreme activities

User need 3 — Capture high quality image/video

User need 4 — Affordable cost

The User Needs will be sorted by priority based on feedback from the market research. What users felt more strongly about their struggles and pains? Those should be the first priorities.

Now we have a series of needs that can be translated relatively easy into product features and the best thing is that they are ordered by priority. So when you define the features relate them to a particular need, if they don’t have a clear link to a user need, they probably shouldn’t be listed. If you start with the first priority user needs and define the features, you will get the features prioritized by default.

Looking now at the features listed, it is clear from where would you start if you wanted to develop a first version of your product. You would focus on the highest priority user needs and respective features for a first prototype. Let’s say you focus on the first 2 user needs, therefore your product version will only include the corresponding features: portable, light, hands-free, 360° orientation, motion recording and protection from the environment.

Maybe you decide that in this first version you will limit the camera orientation to 120° for simplicity in the prototype instead of 360°, and that shouldn’t make such a difference to the experience at first. In fact, you might realize from further user interaction that 360° is not even a feature the user values that much and a range between 120° and 180° will do for the majority.

Which benefits you get?

Follow this simple and quick method to define relevant features for your product and you will enjoy the following benefits:

  1. Build the right features for your product
  2. Prioritize your build goals and features during development
  3. Have consensual design decisions

In Abilista we work with the approach described above, and we have created a tool that facilitates the the process and the experience during development. We call it the Idea Brief Canvas and it follows the same principle with the addition of the technical requirements which are linked to the features, and other additional influencing aspects in your solution such as competitors and external factors.

Learn how to use the Idea Brief Canvas in this short video.

Access to Free Resources

If you want to get started building your product idea with our simple framework, just access our free resources area and embrace a new approach for dynamic entrepreneurs and startups.

Click to get access to our free templates used on this article.

Abilista guides innovators to develop their product ideas from concept, prototyping and all the way to manufacturing following our own step by step framework. We are already helping several entrepreneurs and startups build their ideas by giving them access to simple and agile tools and expertise on-demand.

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