How is a product launched to the market? What comes to mind is an enlightened being who comes up with a great idea to meet a consumer need, develops the product, and… voilá! Everybody loves it and buys it.
Well, that might be the case for a few specific products. Sometimes a person can be a visionary (or steals the idea from someone more brilliant but less charismatic) and creates products that become a turning point in society and technology… but do you think that is what happens in most cases?
The product failure rates hover around 40% depending on the industry. That means billions of dollars are lost annually. The causes can be summed up in a straightforward reason: stakeholders are developing blindly without considering the people who will consume their product.
I have worked in several industries, and there has invariably been something that could make or break each product in every project. And that is the ability and willingness of the squad to listen to the users, the people who would ultimately use it and buy it or not.
Let’s do a little exercise: How do you organize your week?
Post-its work best for me; I have them all over my office. Seeing the number go lower every time I accomplish a task is so rewarding! And my mind can feel free when I don’t see any post-its around. I’ve been doing this for years, but… What if there were a more efficient and eco-friendly way of getting the same satisfaction in completing tasks? What if you could carry those post-its around in your pocket and look at them anytime? Would you like to share them with your acquaintances, friends, or family?
Those were the questions that people at Miro started to ask themselves, leading them to create a great product. As a result, they came up with a whiteboard that allows you to do many different things, get organized, and manage your projects better. It lets people collaborate on the same tasks in real-time, hold brainstorming meetings, and organize their time and team assignments. They created a digital product that enabled people around the globe to work remotely, and it was an excellent ally for companies that were unprepared to do so during the pandemic. As a result, Miro became one of the 20 most valuable private companies worldwide. Their product kept improving by listening to the needs of the users and the companies, bringing them a global network of 35M users, 130,000 clients, and 100+ app integrations with different platforms.
On the opposite side, there are countless cases of companies that failed because they did not identify or listen to their users. Focusing only on the hypotheses of a few businesspeople, not anticipating issues yet unresolved for the people, and only copying other businesses can cost companies millions of dollars. We can agree that investing time and money in something that will not add value, solve a problem, or fill a customer’s need is not the wisest plan. Individuals are driven to invest in a product if it solves something for them. So it is crucial to understand and define the problem to be solved.
With that in mind, we can infer that the problem might be more important than the solution. In most cases, the business team wants to provide solutions rapidly. But taking the time to understand what we want to solve, rather than how we will solve it, can be the key to creating a more significant product. And why is that? Once we comprehend the issue, we can find countless ways of solving it, but if you are trying to find a solution to the wrong problem, you’ll never reach your goal.
So, how can we create better products that people want to use?
We first need to consider ‘What problem are we solving for the user?’. This powerful question can be used as a foundation for the ideation process. This approach will take the team much further in product ideation than just analyzing the market or what competitors are doing. The best strategy to be ahead in the market is not to run behind the competitor, adding the same things they are doing, but to go further and anticipate the need that is not yet being solved. And sometimes, that need is much simpler than the business team can imagine.
UX Design and design thinking have been taking the spotlight lately, especially in tech companies, because we work with an iterative process that allows us to optimize products, services, and business processes. The core idea of the iterative process is to have steady improvements towards a goal, to fail faster, and to have more control of the results. You can rearrange your next steps according to what was learned in the previous iteration and build a better product. You can focus on what is essential for the customers, not just on a wild guess from a few people. Our purpose is to listen to the users, learn from their pain points, and give them a solution to their problems. That’s the main difference with the old way of creating a product: now you can bring to the market something that is proven people need and would use.
The design team will develop strategies that suit the project’s needs but within specific steps to achieve this. The process is not linear; the team can return to any action as needed. The techniques may differ, but they follow the same path: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.
However, the first stage I’ll recommend putting extra effort into, which will be the foundation for the whole project is: Empathizing and getting to know the user. We do this all through the product lifecycle using different research techniques that allow us to collect quantitative and qualitative data, which must be unraveled into insights to identify and determine the real issue to be solved. These learnings serve both to prioritize development and to create the product. They can be the compass that directs the roadmap, prioritizing what is more useful or valuable for the customer. That way, they will be more inclined to buy our product.
When studying the user, you can focus on what they need. For example, some products are mainly used on PC. Although there is a general interest to develop for mobile first, if your user is not going to use that platform in that way, you can focus time and money on developing the MVP (which will allow you to test the application in the fastest and cheapest way possible) for PC and then build the mobile application as an improvement. This way, the development will be much more effective, and you will benefit from the iterative process. Faster, low-cost, and focused.
Giving yourself and your project the opportunity to know your user before the product is done, when it is only an abstract idea, might get you unexpected results. Innovation often comes when someone looks deeper into an existing challenge or situation. A UX designer’s job is to analyze and dig a bit further into user comments, stated problems, and data to see through the answers they give us. Most of the time, humans are not explicit in what they need, so it takes the expertise of a specialized team to read between the lines, add up data and research, and not jump to conclusions or problems right away to find a solution that suits our users.
Does that mean that we need to do everything users want? No.
We need to discover what they need. A group of trained professionals can translate what they want and devise a solution for their problems. That way, we’ll create a special bond between the user and the product. We are giving them not what they want but a solution for their pain points. And when you make a person’s daily tasks, job, or challenging moments easier, they will want to invest in your product, and you’ll catch them effortlessly.
Listening to your users and letting them be the compass of your product can be something new to you, but are you willing to try to create a more excellent product?