How to discover the actual value proposition of a product or service

UX Design Series
Part 3

Clearly defining the actual value proposition of a product or service is essential at the start of a project to specify how you are helping users solve a problemA primary goal of the discovery process is finding the true needs of users to define the value proposition for users.

Making sure that every product or service offers real value for customers is a strategy used by companies like Amazon. As explained in an Observer article by former Amazon worker Brittain Ladd, “Instead of starting with an idea for a product and trying to convince executives that customers will ‘love the idea,’ Amazon works from the perspective of the customer to come up with ideas that will legitimately generate value.” 

Sometimes the findings in the discovery process will reveal that the original value proposition needs to be modified to address the real needs of actual users. User experience (UX) designers will use both qualitative and quantitative research methods to create a complete picture of user needs.

The 2 types of research needed to learn more about users

Qualitative research reveals how the user feels when using a digital or physical product or service – pressured, rushed, relaxed, impatient, etc. Taking the time to uncover qualitative data is essential to develop empathy for the end user.‍

Quantitative research is more concrete and uses metrics; for example, the frequency of use for a given period, membership percentage, etc. Quantitative data is extremely useful, but must be used in conjunction with qualitative data in order to create compelling human-centered designs.

By combining quantitative and qualitative findings, the UX team can determine how the product or service can solve a problem for the user and how to make that solution easy to use. One thing that UX designers learn over time when observing users is that their actual behavior and actions don’t match what they describe when you ask them to remember what they do. Using a qualitative and quantitative approach allows us to validate or invalidate assumptions made from interpretation of data or from stakeholders speaking on behalf of users.

These research methods are used throughout the product development process to refine the design. The benefit of doing thorough research in the early discovery phase is that later testing based on prototypes will not require major changes or rework.

Knowing the problem early in the process can reduce development time. Rather than starting with a “blind” prototype based on assumptions, we can design an initial prototype that responds to the actual problem we need to solve. As we refine the design and prototype in the development process, we’ll get closer to solving the problem. When we know the real problem, we know what direction to take to develop the solution.

Examples of value propositions

FreeO2 from OxyNov

Value proposition: provide efficient, safe and comfortable oxygen therapy for respiratory patients

Target users: patients receiving treatment, and nurses in a hospital environment 

Problems to solve: ensure that patients are receiving oxygen at optimal levels; reduce the manual monitoring and resetting required to comply with recommendations and clinical oxygenation targets

The process: using our strategic design approach, we conducted extensive research and collected user feedback to define expectations and usability requirements

Imagine from Meglab

Value proposition: ease communication and decision-making by providing a mobile solution that shows underground mine assets

Target users: managers responsible for mine workers, equipment, and activities

Problem to solve: without real-time knowledge of where people, vehicles, and other assets are in the underground mine, it was difficult to make decisions

The process: take advantage of Meglab’s underground mine solution expertise, and work closely with their team

Absenteo

Value proposition: make it easier for primary and secondary schools to manage absences and replacements

Target users: school boards, administrators, employees, and substitutes

Problem to solve: multiple systems with limited access made it difficult to communicate and manage absences and replacements for different schools

The process: collaborate with the Absenteo team to meet with users and clearly define their true needs

Use divergent thinking to define the value proposition

As we discussed in a previous blog post about the discovery process, we need to use divergent thinking when defining the value proposition. It’s important to be open to new ideas about who the user is, what the user is trying to do, and why current solutions aren’t solving the problem.

By staying open to all the possibilities as we do qualitative and quantitative research, we’ll have a more complete picture of the users and the problems we can solve for them. In an upcoming blog post we’ll talk about how we define the problem. 

Learn more about our UX design expertise.

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About the author

Maude Leclerc-De Guire is a UX designer who is passionate about finding creative solutions that help people with their daily lives. As an experienced member of the NOVO design team, Maude champions the user throughout the product development process.

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