When starting a project, design options seem endless while timelines and budgets are often tight. How do you know which opportunity areas can have the most impact or should be addressed first? By leveraging user research, an informed development roadmap can be created.
Define goals and objectives
This seems obvious, but stakeholders and development project teams must communicate goals and objectives clearly and define their focus: is the goal to increase market share, reduce production cost, reduce support costs, etc.? Outlining these objectives at the project start and referring to them often will help establish the scope and give development teams criteria to assist in evaluating user needs.
Build from good end-user data
Market research is valuable to understand high-level insights but doesn’t provide a complete picture of user needs. Contextual research is integral to understand both explicit and implicit user needs. Although in-depth interviews provide valuable data, you may miss important user needs without contextual research. For example, a surgeon may state the attributes they need for a new product but not mention that they must step over stretched power cables from existing equipment during the intended product use. Focusing on a specific product is only one part of a workflow; systemic issues may play a critical role in meeting development objectives.
Understand how underlying emotional needs affect behavior
When conducting research, it’s crucial to capture verbatim expressions from end users. Their reaction to a product or question will indicate the emotion and importance of their opinion and can be referenced later when evaluating how important an opportunity or feature may be.
Evaluate user workflow(s) and expectations
Individual workflows may vary, but user groups often work to accomplish a similar set of tasks. Identifying common task flows and scenarios helps to provide implementation priority according to their importance for task completion. Additional user needs identified can be evaluated against these workflows to assess whether they improve design usability or experience or whether they detract from it. If an opportunity area is identified, and it helps improve the usability and experience of a commonly used tool, it should be ranked with a high implementation priority.
Evaluate user needs against set criteria, including goals and objectives
Identify user personas from research data to keep user needs top-of-mind when evaluating the overall needs and comparing them with established goals. For example, if the goal of a project is to reduce cost, there may be multiple ways identified in the research to obtain this goal: a safer device will reduce the risk of litigation, intuitive interfaces which meet users’ expectations will reduce training time and support costs, and design solutions can be built to reduce production costs into the resulting solution.
By leveraging good user research, it is possible to narrow down design and development options, ensure focus is placed on the areas with the most impact and create a robust roadmap to meet product development objectives.
Learn more about Battelle's user research capabilities as well as the rest of our Human Centric Design work.
About the Author
Russell Kittel is an Industrial Designer at Battelle.