What makes a successful product really tick is its ability to deliver exactly what its customers want. A high-quality customer experience is arguably one of the best ways to stand out from your competitors, drive engagement and promote brand loyalty.
A critical aspect of a superior customer experience is a well-thought-out user experience, which is not only intuitive and seamless but is also backed by solid user insights.
And while some product companies do genuinely understand their customers, there are others that base even critical product decisions on judgements. This could be why although good ideas are aplenty, good products are rare.
Because for a product, it is hard to identify precisely what is working and what is not merely by usage metrics or NPS scores. In order to deliver a great user experience, it is critical to know your users – their behaviors, actions, motivations and so on.
With customers expecting the moon and successful products delivering that and more, it is critical to have a finger on the pulse of your customers. And user research helps you do just that.
Get started early
Integrating user research early in product development helps build successful products by guiding the process with valuable user insights at critical stages of the product life cycle. While an increasing number of product teams are awakening to the benefits of user research post-launch, the adoption of user research in the pre-launch stage still leaves a lot to be desired.
That’s because traditionally, companies have been conducting user research through external agencies. The entire process – from identifying the test participants to conducting the research and then compiling insights – is time-consuming and typically takes around 8-12 weeks. It is not surprising then that incorporating user research throughout the development process has never been practical until now.
With DIY research platforms encouraging product teams to conduct user research in-house, the future belongs to product teams that adopt robust research methodologies to validate early product concepts and designs. Concept testing, prototype testing and user interviews are some of the most effective user research methods for early product development.
Through concept testing and prototype testing, you get to see users interact with your product and observe their responses. In fact, these are the simplest ways to test product-market fit since you get direct and honest feedback from the users on whether the solution you are offering will solve their problem. Any unwarra nted assumptions around the product can then be eliminated before it leads to costly mistakes.
Traditional vs agile approach
With agile development methods being the order of the day, product teams are always bound by tight deadlines and therefore they tend to skip user research altogether before launch.
Instead of skipping user research entirely, product teams could adopt an agile in-house research approach to test their product post-launch. Some popular post-launch research methods include heatmap testing, usability testing, A/B testing, and screen recording. These methods allow product teams to measure nuanced user responses to ensure products align with customer expectations.
This also has more extensive business implications. While a superior user experience is proven to be great for acquiring new customers, by tailoring user experiences as per customer expectations, product teams can also improve customer retention and identify growth opportunities.
At every critical stage of product development, there are decisions to be taken. And although risks are inherent in innovation and product development, it is imperative to base these decisions on solid user insights.
AI – the future of user research
When there are such critical decisions riding on user insights, you need to make sure that the responses you’ve gathered are unbiased and accurate.
The trouble with this is twofold – not only are most types research in building user responses often fraught with bias, but the observer’s interpretation is also susceptible to bias. That’s where AI-powered user research tools come in. User research tools such as Affect UX measure subconscious user responses through our proprietary Facial Coding and Eye Tracking technology to minimize and, to a great extent, even eliminate user response bias.
Eye-tracking-based heatmap tools are a great way to eliminate bias. Although click-based heatmaps are the more prevalent tool for gauging user attention on websites, prototypes and apps, these have limitations. They merely track users’ mouse movements, which may not provide very valuable data. On the other hand, an eye-tracking-based heatmap can track users’ eye gaze, revealing the areas that attract the maximum subconscious attention.
Let’s say you are performing a usability test for a new mobile app. Using Affect UX’s AI-powered Facial Coding and Eye Tracking technology, you can gauge nuanced subconscious user responses to uncover friction points, measure user engagement, and identify the UI elements that instill trust in the user journey. Since the AI-powered tool measures subconscious responses rather than stated responses, the accuracy of these insights is superior to others.
The future of user research is AI-driven. Not only will AI-powered tools play a crucial role in how research is conducted, but also in how data is analyzed and insights are delivered. This allows for research to be conducted in-house at every stage of development, making it more agile, robust, and impactful.
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