User research seems obvious, but most mobile developers do very little – if any. They rely entirely on their own assumptions, experience and hypotheses to progress directly into flowcharts, wireframes and mock-ups, only to find out later that their assumptions were wrong. This often leads to a substandard product and helps to explain why most mobile apps fail. Fail to generate real user engagement; fail to generate real revenue.
Know Your Users
In order to increase your app’s chance of success, it’s important to know who is using the product you’re making. You cannot give them what they want until you understand who they are, what they desire, and what problems they face. They don’t look like you, they don’t think like you, they don’t want the same things you want. If they did, they wouldn’t be your customers; they’d be your competitors. The quicker you understand this the better off your product will be.
User research is a dirty business, full of theories and complexities. However, it is vital to the success of your app that you implement a strong and proven product development process; and that process begins with a fact finding mission to thoroughly understand your users. At Evus Technologies, we call this Phase 0. Here, it is our duty to first understand what we know, what we think we know and what we don’t know at all. Setting out to prove/disprove what we know and think we know, and get the answers to what we do not. This can be a tricky process that requires product developers to not only understand what the questions are, but to know which methods are best suited to provide the answers. This requires framing, planning, facilitating and analyzing, and can include techniques such as focus groups, games, field study, in-context observation, and many more.
The Devil’s in the Data
Collecting data is the first step, understanding it is the next. Your research data must be culled, normalized, reviewed and documented. It is one thing to perform user research and collect data and is entirely another to effectively use those results to align your product with your customer and business. It requires experience and training to be able to recognize patterns and relate them back to features and user experience within your app. Experience that your development team should be able to provide.
Adjust as Needed
While a user-centric process is fundamental to a successful mobile app, there are no hard and fast rules about what is right an what is wrong when it comes to designing experiences. Each product has it’s own set of constraints and it’s own context of use. Attempting to apply the same set of rules to all will only lead to frustration. Lead with best practices and rely on experience in user research to gain deep insights into the psychographics and behaviors of your customers while adjusting for the unique elements of your product and user.
Best-practices in user research can change quickly, as can the methods. Yet, regardless of methods and techniques, the goal remains the same – to understand your users to ensure product-market fit and increase the chances of success. Following a design-thinking philosophy will allow you to create useful, desirable, usable, and prosperous mobile applications. There are many mobile designers and developers out there that can create sexy interfaces and robust back-end systems. It is the ones that employ the proper process to understanding your users that bring the most value to your product and to your business. Focus on understanding the users from day one with a proven process and you will increase the success of your mobile app exponentially.