Understanding User Needs

Who are the users? What do they truly need?

Product development best practices series

In this third blog in our series on best practices in product development, we explore the importance of knowing what users need. Since more than half of businesses fail because they simply don’t understand what their users want, this is critical information.  

We’ll continue the hypothetical story from our first two blogs about an industrial designer named Mike, who co-founded a medical start up with a small team, and together they created a breakthrough blood pressure device.

Mike and his team focused on developing a digital blood pressure machine based on Mike’s insistence that this type of device would benefit a huge number of people, like his daughter who was born with a heart condition that requires her to monitor her blood pressure frequently.

However the team soon realized that Mike’s personal experiences did not provide enough information for them to build on. In fact, there were a number of things the team had to do to determine how to make their product marketable, including:

  • Defining their stakeholders
  • Identifying their stakeholder’s needs
  • Determining a pertinent feature set for their product
  • And defining the simplest version of the product for testing

Who are you creating for?

Personas are fictional composites of key users that allow development teams to establish empathy for users as real people, and are an effective way to define potential stakeholders. Creating a persona involves interviewing multiple types of users in the environments where a product will be used.  

Mike’s team was able to develop their persona by recruiting product strategy professionals who visited clinics, pharmacies, shopping malls and senior’s homes in order to conduct interviews and collect data.

During this discovery process, the product strategy professionals also held workshops with potential users and determined that what they really wanted was a portable machine that was easy to use at home or work, was compact, provided rapid results, and facilitated the process of getting data to physicians.

Furthermore, these users stated that while they felt anxious using current blood pressure machines to the point where they thought their blood pressure was artificially elevated during the process, they felt that a device like the one they wanted would feel more relaxing, and therefore more likely to deliver accurate results.

Having a design philosophy focused on understanding users’ problems provides insight that informs Mike’s project solutions because even if the discovery process starts with a presumed problem and solution, the User Experience (UX) design process can reveal additional potential solutions that may ultimately yield more successful results.

Engineer a Solid Product

Next, Mike needed to determine the feature set. Many portable blood pressure machines look bulky and old-fashioned, which makes using them a chore. So the goal was to create a device that had a sleek, modern look and touch-screen controls to give it a high-tech appeal. Most importantly, the device had to be able to transmit data to a website that users and their physicians could access, making frequent doctor appointments unnecessary.

The team was initially set on a battery-operated device to make it less expensive, but adjusted their planning after additional research revealed that this user put convenience before price so was more likely to buy a higher-priced device that was rechargeable.

The team also established the Minimal Viable Product (MVP), the simplest version of a prototype that can be tested by users, by eliminating unnecessary features like controls for screen brightness and different tones to indicate completed readings. Testing early and often allows Mike and his team to refine the product design and discover and eliminate any potential barriers to adoption of the technology.

Lorem Ipsupum Hello Hello ceci est un test

Mike’s device demonstrates how Internet of Things (IoT) solutions facilitate the ability of devices to connect and provide critical data, while his strategic approach ensures that the right equipment is being connected and gathering the most useful data for users. However, because IoT solutions tend to be complicated due to the proliferation of different types of devices and their inherent complexity, Mike recognized the importance of having the right team of technical professionals to help him successfully implement the product development plan.

Having now established a user persona, understanding what type of product this user needs, determining the product feature set and the MVP, Mike and his team are well positioned to develop a viable roadmap which will provide a realistic timeline for the device deliverables.

return to blog