Emily had always had this habit of chewing cinnamon gum whenever she was feeling anxious. Today wasn’t any different. She was about to leave her home without letting her husband or children know —…


Level up your user discovery!

User discovery is the first and most critical step in bringing a product to life. However, throughout my career, I’ve found it to also be the most vastly misunderstood and under appreciated phase of the product development lifecycle.

I’m not blaming Agile frameworks like Scrum and Kanban directly for this, although, they have contributed to a culture of rapid and constant delivery of code into a live environment. This is what the whole product and tech worlds have been fixated on for over the last 5–10 years or so.

With the introduction of the Product Owner who serves to sit as a backlog admin who spends hours on end in internal meetings and writing tickets to feed the development team with work, the end result often comes to this:

‘80% of the features will only be used by 5% of your user base’

As famously stated by the former Head of Marketing at Pendo…

The incipient phase comes with the specific success pressure and tends to overlook the fundamentals that needed to be checked, thus creating too detailed MVPs that result in ambiguous usability test results.

2. They lack investment in the discovery phase

Excessive focus on churning features, as opposed to solving real user problems and needs.

3. Internal management dynamics are out of sync with the Product Management team

To avoid risking the overall value of the product, PM teams might need to push back on senior leadership’s new feature integrations in order to preserve the value-oriented development rhythm.

4. ‘Success’ doesn’t mean what it should

There is a lack of focus on end results/outcomes. Success is mere delivery of features, validating user empowerment is more than that. Does your end-product solve the user’s needs? Its tech functionality aligns with the ‘why’ of your product?

5. Time-consuming and NOT RELEVANT SYNONYM — VOLATILE user interview

The challenge is to follow a methodology that best portrays a balance between the objective tech aspects but also their subjective experience of the user. The subjectivity of interviewing users creates a risk of never really understanding our user personas.

Product Management and Engineering Teams are left to be eaten by the wolves. They must deliver everything and fulfil all customer desires. Collaboration with sales, marketing, customer success, finance, etc is often limited. They don’t collaborate towards ensuring they are geared to validate key strategic hypotheses together or even launch a new product/big feature effectively in unison.

Bearing all this In mind, there are things companies can do to give themselves the best chance possible of unearthing key insights and connecting with their user base. Here are some of the tools and practices you should look to embed within your organization to level up your user discovery efforts:

They’re an easy and quick quantitative validation with no development involvement (after initial setup). A great starting point to get a gut feeling of a hypothesis and pick out some users who you could potentially do further discovery with.

A nice subtle way to share new features and release updates and then throw in a question. e.g. ‘Do you want to see our new workflow automation feature?’

Even if this feature doesn’t exist, it’s a great opportunity to see if any interest exists from users who actually follow your product updates and releases indicating a strongly invested interest in your product

Experiment with new hooks to gauge interest e.g. ‘send SMS”. Even if this send SMS button doesn’t trigger a backend service, this is a great indicator to show that users expect to see such functionality exist within that context.

As documented by the genius that is Nir Eyal: encourage users to start a new goal once one has been completed.

In this phase, the ease of experimenting and adjusting according to the results is crucial. Even if in the upcoming phases development is a clear differentiator, here you could play with the existing tools to comfortably alter the copywriting and add fake buttons/elements with some segmentation using feature flags.

To assess interest and easily measure the enthusiasm towards your product, set up landing pages in your app and on your public site.

Check ‘letsdeel’ which has ‘OpenAPI’ as one of their product offerings on their burger menu. When you click on ‘OpenAPI’, it takes you to a landing sign-up page to join the waiting list.

Where are your potential customers spend their time out? Expos, community forums, social media groups, industry events, etc?

Yes, I’ve mentioned some cool pieces of tech to help you make some greater inroads. However, do not discount the value of some good tried and tested in-person techniques which can often unearth great insights.

You must always have a strong presence using your sales, marketing, and customer success teams to be with your target personas wherever they hang out.

Communities nowadays have definitely met different ways of connecting whether we are talking forums or steering groups.

This is by no means a definitive list, however, this is just to give readers a flavour of some of the investment in processes, people, and tools needed to give user discovery the focus it needs.

It’s time to add some rocket fuel to user insights to allow you to build kick-a#s products that truly resonate with your user base and their needs!

Muhammed Zaulifqar is an experienced Product Manager, Leader, product development, and validation enthusiast. His experience brings to the surface consistent insight about creating products in start-ups, global tech, ed-tech, utilities, e-commerce, and telco.

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