August 8, 2016
Dev Tools Digest – Aug. 8
In this issue of our Dev Tools Digest, Particle announces a brand new Console along with a great prototyping tier, Netlify calls for communi...
So you have an idea. You have felt the pain, or you see whitespace that you think no one is thinking about. You decide to solve the problem. You bring together a small passionate team and round up a few friends to fund you. You get started on the journey of building the product, you have some signals from the market that there is a need for the product. How do you build an MVP that is usable to your target users? Well, the answer lies in thorough user research.
Brian Chesky of Airbnb stated on the Masters of Scale podcast that your “roadmap exists in the user’s minds.” It is your job as an entrepreneur to unlock that roadmap. Brian was meeting with a host in the middle of winter to take pictures of his apartment. As Brian and his co-founder were leaving, he turned and asked the host if they can help in any other way and the host comes with a binder of feedback for Brian.
That was an incredibly passionate host who wanted Airbnb to succeed, but if Brian hadn’t asked, that feedback might never have been shared. It was listening to these early adopters is what made Airbnb a high-growth company.
User research is not easy, but the number one issue is finding users who are willing to give you their time. You can solve this issue by going to your friends and family network and work hard to build relationships. I highly recommend this technique, since if you can’t find people to give you their time to talk to you then perhaps they are not going to want to pay for a product. So go after them and find them, they exist out there especially if you have experienced it yourself.
Once you find a set of users, let’s assume you find a dozen really interested users, how do you conduct research? Let’s look at another example of user feedback in action to understand some of the do’s and don’ts of user research.
Image Source: TINT
Your goal as an entrepreneur is to understand the user as deeply as you can. This includes all their pain points around the problem you are trying to solve. How do you do it?
Diana Tobey, a Business Designer at IDEO, recently shared a story about how her team researched a project that was focused on improving the experience of taking prescription medications. The IDEO project team had a hypothesis that older patients might have a harder time opening the standard pill bottle. However, while conducting an in-person interview with an older patient, the answer was a resounding no. Perplexed, the IDEO team asked the research participant to show them how he opened his pill bottles. He led them to his kitchen where he used a deli slicer to slice off the tops of his medication bottles. An extreme workaround which highlighted that the problem was real, and in need of a solution.
Time and time again investors favor entrepreneurs who have spent time in the problem space and understand user’s needs more deeply than anyone else out there. They are looking for entrepreneurs to do their leg work in the problem space. They want entrepreneurs who can build products by being extremely scrappy and resourceful but be extremely clear about the “who” and the “why”. That level of clarity only comes from thorough user research.
Punit, an ex-Google VP, decided to build products for healthcare space. He spent a year and a half just in the problem space. He met with all the stakeholders, nurses, doctors, hospital admins, ops staff, triage folks, and patients. He uncovered several problems, he then honed in on a problem that he decided to solve: improving the notes that doctors take during patient visits. He and his team built Suki, an AI transcription service that helps doctors take accurate notes so they don’t have to rely on memory to take notes about a patient. Suki has raised $20M in funding and grown now to over 50 employees.
Ultimately, effective user research can be boiled down to one key tenet: spend time with your users. Prioritizing face time with them, get deep into the weeds to learn what their days look like, how they solve problems, and where you can make the most impact.
There’s no good shortcut to understanding your users. But with some thoughtful conversations and an open mind to feedback, user research can help you build a product that solves a problem, and message that product in a way that helps users see its value more directly.
Rana is a product growth leader experienced in growing KPIs by 2 – 10X. She has over 15 years of experience in technology, product growth, strategy, and analytics. Her experience includes B2C, B2B SaaS, and AI machine learning products. Rana holds an MBA from Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and an M.S. in Engg. from Drexel University.