Product design research can mean the difference between a good product and a great one. Going from good to great can put you ahead of competitors and win customers. But what makes a product great?
Throughout the design process, it’s important to remember, product design is not just about behind the scenes testing & development. It’s about giving your customers what they really want.
Market research is valuable at all stages of the product development process. In the early phases, it serves to minimize risk as you determine market demand, potential user base, unmet needs, competitive solutions, impressions of your concept, and price point, to name just a few examples. At later stages, product research can help you make tweaks that improve upon design, solve service and packaging issues, identify delights and differentiators, and more.
Product research methods may include customer profiles, concept tests, online surveys, price tests, and product studies, among others. But don’t discount the value of seeing your product in action.
We can’t stress enough the value of getting design engineers out of the office and into customers’ homes. You’d be amazed at what you can learn by observing people in their natural environment. With the help of an experienced interviewer, product designers get to see how people really use their products. This invaluable contextual and behavioral data often provides new product ideas as well as modifications for existing ones.
Usability testing, or watching users as they carry out tasks, is a common practice in website design. By seeing where users get tripped up, UX (user experience) designers can make tweaks that lead to more intuitive and easy to use websites. Think about how many times you’ve gone to a site and struggled to find the information you need, quickly. When this happens, what do you do? If you’re like most people, you abandon ship. The same is true with physical products.
Through our decades of research experience, we’ve seen it over and over – design engineers think their product is fool-proof and completely intuitive. Yet when put to the test, users failed to see the “obvious” design features. Once, we had design engineers for a stroller manufacturer tag along on in-home interviews. They watched in awe as consumers completely missed the function of various buttons, levers, and straps. Not only that, customers created ingenious workarounds which, thanks to hands-on research, ended up being integrated as product modifications.
In conclusion, product design is not a linear process. Nor is it done in a vacuum. Iterative design is a “think-make-check” process repeated over and over again. The more you involve your potential users, the better your product will perform when it is released.