In case you missed the introduction to this series, I’ll be identifying one product research pitfall per post. You can read Mistake #1 here.
Mistake #2: Not Triangulating Research
A LOT OF PEOPLE RECOGNIZE that simply talking to customers and doing what they say isn’t enough. But many of these people conclude that talking to real-world users is therefore not a good use of time, usually quoting the Henry Ford adage, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
To quote a famous saying right back, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath¬water.”
Talking to end-users is necessary to gain true customer insight, but it’s not enough by itself. You need to put the ideas you get from talking to customers into a wider context. You do this using data from other research techniques, particularly observational research — watching users use the product in their real-world environment and understanding their unspoken needs.
For example, when we do a field study and task analysis, we often find work¬flow issues with the product that cause a lot of frustration and time wasted. The customer didn’t tell us these issues during the interview, but these issues usually present a greater opportunity for product improvement than the cus-tomer’s wish list of features.
Additionally, product and marketing executives are investigating trends such as web analytics and mining social media data related to their products. These should be used in addition to (but not as a substitute for) direct and observational research techniques. For examples of some of these methodologies, see Macadamian’s research technique quick reference as well as a practical application in Overhaul a UI Design Without Upsetting Users.
Often, what customers say they want and what they actually need differ significantly. The solution is not to give up on research, but to triangulate the data using research techniques that have a demonstrated track record.
About the Author
Lorraine Chapman is a management and User Experience Research professional at Macadamian Technologies. In addition to her role as Director of User Experience Research, Ms. Chapman has provided a broad range of clients (within the Healthcare, Telecommunications, Government, and Finance sectors) with strategic direction on business, product and customer issues. This experience includes product value analysis, user requirements research (both qualitative and quantitative) and usability analysis/evaluation of websites, services (eCommerce and eBusiness), applications, software, hardware and documentation. Lorraine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org