Are you sure you know what your users want?


2 May 2022

Today’s digital projects demand a new way of working. To succeed, teams must adopt agile practices and continuous integration to iterate rapidly, test early, and reduce risk. This means a team can’t just build what they think their users want; they need to understand who their users are and what they want before they start building. Working effectively in an Agile environment requires new skills from everyone involved in the project — traditional product managers and UX researchers have different roles now that everything is iterative and collaborative. Instead of asking users what features they want next, you need to know upfront how much value specific features will offer them. 


Why Discovery is Difficult for Agile Teams

Successful product discovery isn’t just something nice to have — it’s essential to successful implementation of any digital product. When a team builds what they think their users want, they’re very likely to fail. It’s better to build nothing than to build something no one wants. Agile teams that want to succeed with product discovery face a number of challenges. They might not have a dedicated product owner to coordinate research, or the PO might be under pressure to deliver features instead of asking questions about what users want. It’s also possible that the team making the product doesn’t understand the user well enough to know what to build in order to add the most value.


The Broken Product Discovery Process

In a perfect world, product discovery would happen before teams start building, but in practice it often doesn’t. The vast majority of customers are only willing to talk to the people making the product once they’ve seen a working version of it. Instead of asking users what they want, they wait until they see something to get their feedback. This might give you a quick win, but it won’t help you understand if you’re adding real value for your users. Instead, you should be asking questions about what users need and what’s important to them before you start building. Want vs. need – You should start by understanding what your customers need and what problems your product is solving before you start asking about what they want. This is because what customers “want” often isn’t what’s best for them — we want to eat ice cream for dinner just as badly as we want extra features in our software.


How to Fix Product Discovery in an Agile Environment

To fix discovery, you need to find a way to do research and learn about your users inside the product development process. You can’t wait until you have a fully functioning product before you start learning about your users — that’s too late. Ideally, you should do research on an ongoing basis as you’re building the product. This means you need to make room for discovery inside your sprints and your product roadmap. Product discovery is an essential part of product management, but it’s often overlooked or treated like an afterthought.


Defining User Value

Once you’ve started learning about your users, the next step in fixing product discovery is to understand the value of each feature you plan to build. Most teams try to do this by asking their users what they like best, or asking them to pick which features they want next. This is the equivalent of a CEO calling their customers and asking which of their products they like best. You’re asking for opinions, not facts. Even if you’ve already interviewed your users, you can still improve your methods to get better results. Start by defining user value as the difference between what your customers want and what they get — not what they like. This puts you on the path to finding out what your customers really need, not what they think they want.


Finding the Right Tasks to Build

Once you’ve defined user value, you can start picking which features to build. Start with the features that add the most value, and then fill in the gaps with the features that add the second most value. This is often easier said than done. Some teams struggle with knowing where to start, while others have trouble sticking to the right tasks long enough to finish them. This is especially common with teams that are used to building everything at once.


Finding the Right Users to Talk To

To understand your users and what value you’re adding for them, you need to talk to the right people. Ideally, you want to talk to your future customers — people who are likely to buy your product but haven’t yet. This is often easier said than done. You might not have the budget to do customer development research or you might not even know who your future customers are yet. In these cases, you’ll have to pick other people to talk to — people who are similar to your ideal customers.


Wrapping up: It’s not enough to just “know your users”

Product discovery isn’t just about knowing your users — it’s about understanding the value of the features you’re building and why they’re important to your users. It’s about spending time with your users, then coming back to your team and sharing what you learned. It’s about asking questions and challenging your assumptions. This is how you add real value for your users, and it’s how you reduce risk and increase the likelihood of success for your digital projects.


Mobile App Development Trends to Watch in 2023

Mobile App Development Trends to Watch in 2023

As the mobile app industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, staying updated with the latest trends is crucial for software developers and businesses alike. From groundbreaking technological advancements to immersive user experiences, these trends are driving...

Is Custom Software Development Right for Your Business?

Is Custom Software Development Right for Your Business?

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, choosing the right software solution is critical to your company's success. When it comes to software development, businesses basically have two main options: custom software development or off-the-shelf solutions. While...