What do detectives have in common with app development teams?
If you want to catch a thief who stole the family jewelry, you search for the clues and analyze them. Finally, you find the solution to the mystery.
The same thing goes with generating ideas for the app. Only it’s called the Product Discovery process. And instead of catching a bad guy at the end, you get a concept of a marketable product – something people genuinely want to use.
To make that happen, you need to find the info about the users and their problems, process the data, and then work on the solution. Needless to say, the Product Discovery phase can be essential to the success of your enterprise.
What is the Product Discovery process?
Before the app development begins, there is a stage called the Product Discovery.
It’s dedicated to collecting and analyzing the information about users. Motivations, problems, and needs they have.
We rely on these insights when ideating and designing the product. The app should address the detected problems, so it could offer users real value.
Why is this phase important?
It helps you avoid wasting the budget on something no one is actually interested in.
25% of apps downloaded in 2019 in the U.S. have been opened just once, according to Statista. When we create the products, we often rely on guesses that don’t have much to do with reality.
The Product Discovery process can help you leave flawed assumptions behind, so you could spot the gaps your app could bridge.
Properly conducted research and analysis lead to discovering people’s struggles and reveal the opportunities for your business.
What kind of information can you get?
The Product Discovery process can give you answers to such questions as:
- Who are your potential users, what do they want to achieve, and why?
- How can you answer their needs and add a new value to the product?
- What are your users’ frustrations and what makes them happy?
Depending on a project’s goal, your research might go in a different direction. For example, if you already have a product, you’d probably rather want to find out:
- Who can be your next target group?
- What business model would be better in your case?
- What causes problems with your current app? Why doesn’t it drive as many sales as expected?
User research – techniques
First, you set up your goals, and then you choose the right research techniques. There are many different methods that bring to light what are users’ problems and motivations. Which one should you choose?
Spoiler alert: it depends.
There is no one and true approach to user research. Basically, what you need to know right now is that research methods can be qualitative and quantitative.
It’s the best solution if you want to get a grasp on people’s opinions, motivations, approaches, or concerns, for example. Qualitative research is a great way to know the user’s perspective.
They focus on observation, interviews. The sample can be quite small. Oftentimes, just a few interviews can become a priceless source of information.
It can help you identify why people do what they do, what prevents them from achieving their goals, or what stands behind their decisions.
The examples of qualitative techniques:
What do users do? How old they usually are? What are the current trends we should take into consideration? To answer these questions, go for quantitative methods. They rely on much bigger numbers compared to qualitative research. It’s the only way to get representative results.
Data obtain this way allows us to make general conclusions.
The examples of quantitative techniques:
- Web analytics
According to the survey conducted by the Norman Nielsen Group, among the popular methods used in the Product Discovery phase, we can also find: stakeholder interviews, competitive analysis, and usability testing, for example.
It’s good to know more, so we encourage you to read about the differences between qualitative and quantitative research. But right now, just keep in mind that it’s best to combine both types of data to get the full picture.
– Use case –
To truly understand why you need to start with some research, let me introduce Kim. She works in a small company. It develops an app for dog owners who want to find the best places for a walk.
But how do people choose the best routes? What do they take into consideration? What information they’d like to see? Kim had to find that out.
The research: Her first source of information were local Facebook groups for dog owners in big cities. She’s been checking if there are any posts concerning the walks. She also contacted a few owners and went for a walk with them to see first-hand what they pay attention to.
The result: It turned out that people often have two or three favorite paths, and they seldom look for any new options. However, they choose the particular ones depending on many factors, such as crowd, weather, bins, special areas dedicated to dogs, etc.
Based on Kim’s research, her team designed some new features. They also decided not to implement certain functionalities because they probably wouldn’t spark users’ interest. At the end of a day, it allowed them to save time and money.
Product Discovery workshop
We have the information, so now we need to make use of it. A proven way of processing data about users is a UX workshop. As a result, you can get solutions that will improve the product. Its agenda must be adjusted to the goal your company tries to achieve.
Who takes part in such a workshop? The development team and the people who have the greatest knowledge about users and the business, such as a product owner, a product manager, or a person who collects customer feedback.
Examples of workshop artifacts
During the workshop, the participants perform the activities that help them come up with the best solutions.
It’s a profile of a person that represents a group of users you build the app for. It describes the demographics, user’s lifestyle, motivations, pains, and needs. Usually, there are several personas, but you should choose the one that is the most important for your business.
#Customer Journey Map
This map presents the entire path users complete to solve the problem. Every stage shows their activities, thoughts, and feelings. You can use it to identify the pain points, to understand what people expect to achieve, and finally, to find the opportunities for your app.
#Value Proposition Canvas (VPC)
It consists of two parts – the first one revolves around users (jobs-to-be-done, pains, gains) while the second one puts the product into the spotlight (product services, pain relievers, gain creators). This canvas is recommended when you want to determine what your product should offer.
They describe what people do with a product and why they do it. Stories are based on a simple formula: As a [who] I want to [do what], so that I can [achieve something].
For example: As a dog owner, I want to check when his favorite park is overcrowded, so that I can go to a quiet place.
You need some help with the Product Discovery phase? Read more about our workshops and tell us what you’d like to achieve.
– Use case –
Let’s get back to Kim. She organized the data collected during the research. Now, her goal is to pinpoint:
- what users want to achieve (apart from simply walking the dog)
- how the app can support the target audience
- what features are necessary to fix the problem
- what additional functionalities the app could have
- how does it all help the company meet their business goals
She expects to find the answers during the Product Discovery workshop.
Its participants created three user personas and selected the primary one for whom the product is mostly for. Then they filled out a Value Proposition Canvas. They also listed the features that must be included in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and those that should be added later on.
When the Product Discovery process comes to an end, the team still has a lot of work to do.
Step nr 1: the UI designer looks into the artifacts, such as personas or Customer Journey Maps. Based on them and other resources, they prepare the designs of the app’s interface.
When the UI design is ready (or at least the main user flows), it is recommended to conduct usability tests. This way you can check what elements and solutions work well and what should be improved.
Step nr 2: software engineers list all the features the app must have, and estimate the development time.
Step nr 3: the product team meets the client on a kickoff meeting. It’s when we discuss the organizational issues, talk about the business objectives and share the product-related information and materials.
After the kickoff, the product development process begins!
Continuous discovery – why it’s best to keep an eye on data?
People expect you to add new features, make some actions easier, adjust UI to current trends, etc.
But what exactly should you change or add? Continuous discovery will help you find the answer. Because the discovery process doesn’t end with the launch of the app. Or at least it shouldn’t.
It’s a good practice to keep on gathering the user feedback and measuring the results. It allows the team to make better decisions based on data and see if the new elements were positively received by users.
Common concerns about the Discovery phase
Although it seems to be the best way of avoiding costly mistakes, still many companies have concerns that make them less eager to start this process. Why?
It takes too much time to do the research
Why companies don’t run the Product Discovery process? “Time pressure to deliver” was the most popular reason in the survey prepared by the NN Group.
To tell you the truth, sometimes the discovery process does take a significant amount of time. However, it’s not always the case.
If you tell us straight ahead how much time you have, we will try to adjust the methods to your timeframe.
And also keep in mind that the research may show that some features you want to have aren’t necessary. As a result, additional time spent on Product Discovery saves you a lot of time on development and testing.
The Discovery Process is too costly
You can’t stretch the budget enough to cover the Product Discovery expenses? Maybe you won’t need to. The research allows you to identify the features that shouldn’t be in the app. So, you save not just time but also money for the project execution.
And what if you find an idea that didn’t cross your mind before? You might get a functionality that will make your product stand out from the competition.
Plus, if something goes awry, you will have to hire a researcher anyway, in the subsequent phase of the project. But then the overall cost will be higher, including fixes and potentially significant changes.
We already know who our users are and what they want
We can guess that a lot of product managers said that before. Some months later, many of them weren’t smiling when reading the reports.
Why? Because the vision of their target audience is often biased and constructed upon mere assumptions and guesses. And even if there has been some research made (for marketing purposes, for example), it doesn’t automatically mean the obtained data will be helpful in our project.
The choice of methods, the way the questions are asked – those factors are all important if we want to get access to reliable information.
The Product Discovery process is your way to go if you want to know users better. It helps you find out what they might like and what are their concerns.
This is also the solution that allows you to identify the business opportunities for your product.
Last but not least, it can save you a lot of money and time.
If you want someone to guide you during the Discovery Process – contact us. We will be happy to help you out!
Read more about the app development lifecycle: