The first step in developing solutions that are easy to use is understanding customer and user needs within the context of the market and existing competition. It takes market and user research to:
- define the problem your product must solve and design an optimal solution
- understand the strengths and weaknesses of competitors’ solutions in comparison to your own
- determine how various customers’ workflows and users’ tasks are similar and different from one another
While some large companies with well-established user experience teams may spend a great deal of time and significant resources on research, small- to medium-size companies need to determine how much time and money they can afford to spend.
In a mature, slow-moving market, you have more time to do thorough research and analysis. But new markets change quickly—and, in a fast-moving market, spending too much time conducting market research doesn’t pay off. Markets sometimes change so quickly that research data becomes stale too soon to warrant the investment in it. For new markets, conduct just enough research to get you started—understanding you’ll probably have to do ongoing research and use your findings to make modifications to your goals throughout the product development lifecycle.
Envisioning short-term and long-term product solutions is key—whether yours is a large or a small company and whether you’re in a mature or a new market. The amount of research you need to conduct varies, depending on how fast the market is changing and its complexity. For mature markets, you have more time to consider your vision and short-term and long-term take on different meanings than for a new market. In fast-moving, new markets, you execute to your short-term vision as it evolves.
Companies who have been in a market for a while—and may have several offerings in their product portfolio—should consider several factors when defining their products. Is this a first-to-market product? Is it a major release for a mature product? Is your goal just to gain a foothold in the market with your current product, then replace it with your next version or even make it a component of a larger application? Will your new product cannibalize another product in your portfolio?
This blog series is based on the article Winning in the Marketplace: How Much User Experience Effort Does It Take?