There are some great articles to be found circling the topic of research and its role in bringing a strong product or service to market. They all seem to be geared to people in the creative service industry. In this series, we will be focused on the why and when of applying research.
This series aims to articulate a process of making evidence-based decisions for every aspect of your business. From investigating the validity of your idea and the people you’re solving a problem for, to defining how you’ll best serve those solutions in real life, in your application, at scale.
The ease of getting an online store or app launched, or blog to publish has never been easier. Online platforms like Shopify, Wordpress, and 99 Designs provide immediate access to materials every business should have. It’s a trap. Without foundational research, you will be guessing, wasting time, money, and ruining opportunities for revenue.
We know from our everyday lives the excruciating pain of dealing with a platform with clunky processes, if we want to avoid contempt for our services and guarantee long term customer relationships, we have to put in the work.
“By 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the most important brand differentiator.”
In the sea of research resources online, one must struggle through waves of nebulous nomenclature and industry jargon that can drive the uninitiated away. At the end of the day, you aim to make informed decisions, and the best way to do that is to surface actionable insights through effective research.
“At a high level, market research focuses on the purchase and sales of the product or service, while design research looks at how customers will use and experience it.”
Research methods and best practices for a marketing campaign focused on growth and the research done for building an application are very different. It’s not enough to just “do research”. In order to get accurate and useful results, it’s essential to choose an approach that considers your stage of product development, objectives, expected outcomes and constraints.
When should research be conducted?
The nature of this process is confusing for just about everyone. From CEOs to support staff. Without conducting research to really understand the problem space and your users you are operating on assumptions — this is a dangerous game. Before building anything, you should know who you’re building for and why you’re building it.
Validate assumptions through research, so you don’t waste resources building the wrong things or building things for the wrong people. Put your concept in front of the people you actually intend to solve problems for and prepare to be very, very surprised.
Research should ideally be an ongoing, iterative process throughout the entire product lifecycle — valuable insights can be revealed at all stages. While your company may not be in the position to conduct frequent and in-depth research due to resource constraints, it would be a disservice to your business and to your customers to skip research altogether. Any research is better than none, and your research approach can be adapted to your constraints.
Why do so few companies effectively employ research?
Foundational, behind-the-scenes work can sometimes feel intangible. Especially when you’re under enormous pressure to move fast and make as much progress as you can with minimal friction. Small businesses are almost always fighting against limited resources. If I tell you that you can get a logo on Fiverr, and a domain and website on Squarespace with eCommerce for under $300.00 you would be forgiven for getting really excited. Without truly understanding who you’re solving a problem for and why — your logo, domain, and website are meaningless to anyone looking for value in a crowded space.
True to the process, for this article I reviewed about a dozen past projects to look at common reasons *cough excuses that clients have used for skipping research at the beginning of a project or while business was in operation.
“We don’t have the time and/or budget for research. We needed to launch yesterday.”
Research is often perceived to be a slow, expensive, and daunting process, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many quick and cost-effective methods of conducting lean research that will result in valuable insights. Uncovering these insights early can save you a lot of time and money down the road and reduce the risk of taking a wrong turn.
“As industry experts, we already know our users.”
Companies can often be guilty of claiming they already know all the answers. You are not your audience. Unless you validate your assumptions with auditing the experiences of your targets audiences you are guessing. The structure of that auditing process is what can give you the insights you need to guarantee successful engagements.
I already bought a domain, and I love it.
We’re all guilty of falling in love with our own ideas. We may have what we think is the best name for a business or ideas about marketing language to use. As an owner or founder that urge to force through ideas of your own can be very strong. The simple truth is that name, domain, tagline, site design, and feature all need to be compelling to your audience. Not you. You are not your audience. If your ideas truly resonate with your audience you can back that up with evidence that they’d respond to the name, understand its intended value, and successfully navigate the landing page to take a desired action.
“Everyone on our team understands the mission, we don’t need documentation”
Now more than ever, conceptual alignment among every person your team and representation at every brand touch-point is vital to your success. If your lead engineer who never speaks to a customer can’t clearly articulate your value proposition — is that a problem? Yes. That same engineer is participating in the creation of that value proposition. If they don’t know what it really is, then they will not be looking for the right ways to execute that vision.
The next article in this series will look at exercises to build foundational research into your business idea using the Strategyzer Business Model Canvas, Value Proposition canvas, and competition audits. We’ll then dive into how that research impacts your services and application feature choices and your visual design.
We’d love to help you
At Transmitter Studios we believe in finding opportunity for growth using human-centered design processes. We put people and relationships at the heart of everything we do. Success means knowing your market, your users, and your opportunities for generating revenue. We’d love to help.
Enormous thanks to Lisa Harvey for her invaluable contributions to this series.