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In UX Design, we solve people’s problems by creating products by anticipating and solving needs.[If you know more about these research techniques, sign up for our user research course]
A product is an object (e.g., a good, a service, or another resource) created to benefit someone (e.g., a customer or user). Products bring value to users’ lives by solving or mitigating problems or generating revenue.
In the past, we thought of products as physical objects, but in the past thirty years, our perception of “product” has expanded to include services, systems, and experiences that help to respond to specific human needs.
In the context of digital design, a “product” is typically an application, tool, or site designed to solve user problems.
The products have two inherent qualities that address user needs:
- Tangible: a hat keeps your head warm and protects it from rain;
- Intangible: a hat can be a fashion object that defines the user’s belonging to a social circle, his social status, or reflects their personality.
The tangible properties of a product define how much the product itself solves the problem: how dry does this coat keep me? How warm is this sweater?
Intangible properties, on the other hand, establish “how” the problem is solved by the product (e.g., the user’s experience or sensations), or establish psychosocial aspects of the product (e.g., how it makes us feel and perceived by friends, peers, and society).
Determining the tangible needs of our users is quite simple, but a quality product must also understand the intangible ones, and this is much more complicated!
What happens using a product?
- A good product can create habits (e.g., 79% of smartphone owners check their device within 15 minutes after getting up);
- Great products can inspire emotions;
- Excellent products are indispensable (33% of Americans would prefer giving up sex rather than lose their smartphone).
The products that go beyond meeting simple, tangible needs, by responding to our intangible desires, are those that “speak” to users and our motivations
Hence the question: how can we better understand our users and what they really want or need?
Obviously, the answer is to do research! It is the core of any user-focused design process.
Validated Learning – Product development as a process
As mentioned above, we are interested in creating solutions that meet the needs and desires of our target consumers in a usable, pleasant, and unforgettable way — a real challenge!
Fortunately, we have the design. At its highest levels, the design is not only something that makes the aesthetic aspect of objects beautiful, but rather a set of tools and structures that can help in problem solving and in obtaining innovative solutions.
By looking at design as a structured process that ensures you are solving problems at every step, you can provide better results while protecting your resources of time and money.
So here is the challenge for UX designers. It starts with an idea, for example, a hypothesis on a user problem that can be solved. The biggest challenge is how to turn the idea into a finished product that will earn people’s love. There are several ways to approach the problem.
First, let’s look at the structure that defines the process of Validated Learning:
As you can see in the diagram above, there are five “gates” that we can walk through on our path along this product development process.
If on the one hand each step is iterative and guided by the hypotheses we are testing and supporting, it is advisable to move to the next “gate” only after having completed the previous step:
- Customer Validation
- Problem Validation
- Concept Validation
- Experience Validation
- Technical Validation
Validated Learning – Customer Validation
Our idea starts with a hypothesis about the problem of a theoretical audience of users. For example, medium-sized start-ups where communication is challenging.
To begin solving the problem, we must ensure that our target audience exists and is addressable.
Can you find people to research?
If not, perhaps this user segment does not exist, and you must rethink the problem you are addressing.
Validated Learning – Problem Validation
Once confirming that the idealized customers do exist, to start solving the problem you have to understand the other products they are using. This task can be accomplished with techniques such as:
- Field observation
- Diaries studies
- Interviews with users
User research and problem verification should be the primary focus of a UX Designer. You should focus on how to extract raw data from a search and refine it into meaningful data, which will help define the user’s problem.
By the end of this process, you should have a deep knowledge of who your target users are, what their problems are, and whether solving the problem has value.
Validated Learning – Concept Validation
In this part, using a deeper understanding of your target users and their problems, we begin to create solutions.
However, before moving on to the actual construction of the products, it is important to create conceptual solutions by describing the product. The techniques to address this include:
- Landing pages
- Paid advertisements
Without flooding users with overwhelming details, we can simplify the process by showing how the designed product fixes their problems. By testing and verifying our ideas, we will know if our solution hypotheses are correct or if we need further development.
Validated Learning – Experience Validation (Verification of the experience)
At this point, we are in the phase most associated with “design.” We know that our problem-solution pairing works, and it’s time to move on to solution design. The level of visual detail or functionality depends on the type of question we are trying to answer. During this verification of the experience, we will create mediums with which users can interact and offer feedback:
- Interactive prototypes
Through various methods to test usability, we can evaluate if our solutions help users or cause secondary problems and collect qualitative and quantitative feedback on their experience.
In this phase, we try to answer the question — are we solving the problem in the right way?
Validated Learning – Technical Validation (Technical Check)
After building our product, we must test the code for bugs or security holes. Often this part is delegated to a team of developers or quality control analysts.
Validated Learning – Deploy and Learn (Launch and learn)
Before launching our products on the market, we should have a prepared learning canvas. In this way, we can clarify pending hypotheses and the data we need to support our products.
Real-time analyzes can provide detailed data on how users interact with the product, which is the primary source of ideas needed to help further improve the product (hence the meaning of deploy (launch) and learn).
[If you know more about these research techniques, sign up for our user research course]