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In the product development life cycle, user experience research plays a significant role.
But knowing how and when it should be implemented for the best results in any new product development process is a very critical piece of the puzzle.
How Does UX Research Fit into the Development of a Product?
User experience is central to every brand.
Even more so than your product itself, the experience that your users have at every touchpoint and interaction will define whether or not you can not only capture their attention but also convert and retain them as happy customers.
To deliver the highest level of customer satisfaction, it’s vital to know who your customers are, what are their preferences, their wants and needs, and what could potentially convert them (or drive them away). This is where the UX research process kicks in.
When Should User Research Be Included in Product Development?
Ideally, user experience research (or UX research) should be utilized very early on in product development.
With that said, it can also be useful at later stages of the project and for upcoming releases.
To best understand the true impact of user experience research in the product life cycle, it helps to consider each of the four stages of the product life cycle separately and learn the exact UX research methods that can be used at each stage, along with the outcome that the UX researcher will achieve by implementing these methods.
What are the Stages of a New Product Development Process?
Whenever you’re faced with any new product development process, it will comprise four main stages:
- Research and Discover
- Ideate and Design
- Build and Test
- Deploy and Measure
At each stage of the process, it’s important to really focus on your end users and adopt a customer-centric approach to product development. Here are 4 Customer Research Methods for Customer-Focused Product Development.
We will be looking at each stage of the product life cycle in terms of how UX contributes towards them and what methods should be used to achieve certain outcomes at each of these stages, both pre and post-release of your product.
UX Contribution in the Pre-Release Stages
Stage 1: Research and Discover
Research is always the first step in discovering and comprehending the End User.
Whenever you’re looking at a new product development process, the first step is to establish a core team, learn and align on the company’s objectives, and always empathize with the customers. This will assist teams in comprehending the customer’s perspective, pain points, and actions.
The following are a few approaches taken by professionals in user experience design to help businesses avoid mistakes in the early stages of the product life cycle:
- UX research
This includes things like in-depth interviews, surveys, focus groups, and field studies. After conducting research, designers create personas, experience maps, user scenarios, etc. through a data modeling approach. These procedures can aid businesses in better comprehending their target audience of users and the issues they face. This will make it simple to address them in the final product.
- Workshops for brainstorming
The attendees of these workshops come from various departments.The confrontation of various points of view encourages discussion and provides the ideal setting for challenging existing concepts and coming up with new ones. This, in turn, may help in aligning everyone on the vision for the project.
- Competitive research
Stage 2: Ideate and Design
In this stage, the entire product team works together to make sure the product is of the highest possible quality at the best possible time for marketing.
Designs are developed that represent a solution that UX researchers and teams have arrived at after brainstorming and ideation.
Some of the practices that UX designers can follow to help deliver the highest quality of experience include:
- Map out the user flows and information architecture
It is necessary to develop a well-thought-out structure, navigation, and user flows (a user’s path to completing a task). By doing this in the product design process, designers can ensure that end users can easily navigate the features and contents of the product.
- Create wireframes
Before any visual design is applied, the interface of the app is laid out in wireframes as a skeleton. Wireframes are a quick way for UX designers to convey their thoughts and ideas in the form of an interface because they require less time to produce (especially low-fidelity sketch versions).
- Create high-fidelity and test prototypes
Additionally, wireframes can be transformed into functional prototypes, allowing designers to evaluate their concepts prior to beginning UI design work. By doing so, businesses can avoid wasting time on bad ideas, and designers can begin working on high-fidelity designs as soon as the results of the prototypes are clear.
In the next step, we’ll come to actually delivering the product to your customers after the strategy has been established and everyone has a clear understanding of what the product will be and who it will serve.
Stage 3: Build and Test
At this stage, designers are expected to collaborate closely with the development team to release a customer-focused solution that drives value and creates an unforgettable experience.
This is when the high-fidelity designs are in place and the designers are prepared to “hand off”:
- Handoff between Designer and Developer!
The Developer, Designer & Tester huddle together where the designer walks everyone through the Design Features and Their Planned Functionalities from the Element Level to the Component Level, describing Their Expected Behavior.
Sharing the designs through UI slicings is one of the suggested practices to accomplish this, which essentially entails annotating each component and element to convey it smoothly to other stakeholders involved.
For more insights into how Designers and Developers collaborate, check out our latest Ask A Designer segment, where developers question designers on things they’ve always wanted to know!
UX Contribution in the Post-Release Stages
Stage 4: Deploy and Measure
During this phase, the entire team works together to implement a user-focused solution where they learn, iterate and deploy in a sprint cycle to achieve a customer-centric product that delivers value and satisfaction.
After the product has been introduced to the market is when you come to the final stage of the product development life cycle, where you will Observe & Validate whether the product is a good fit for the market.
The following are some of the actions that can be taken to enhance the user experience of a product:
- Perform a UX audit
Performing a product audit can prove to be the best course of action for a business that wants to go a step further to enhance their product experience. By doing this, designers can offer advice on a product’s accessibility and usability issues, which could boost conversion rates and other crucial business metrics.
- Build new features with feedback from actual users
Another great part at this stage is that you can use the information and data you have gathered about a product’s performance whenever you want to improve on it to meet your users’ needs.
Even if a product is just an MVP, it may be easier to identify usability issues. You can get real-world feedback on your product through user testing, which is sometimes impossible to get through even past mockup testing.
Additionally, you can also gain insights that will assist you in designing additional product features.
User experience research can be advantageous for businesses of all sizes, digital and physical products, and at all phases of a product life cycle.
The earlier in the product development life cycle you can introduce UX research, the more benefits you will reap.
“UX comes into play as a Prerequisite & Not as a Peripheral when you speak about Focusing on End Users!”
With that said, this action can always be taken at any time; it’s never too late!
If you’re still considering the value of incorporating the expertise of a design specialist for your next product development process, here’s a detailed introduction to Enhancing the Product Life Cycle With Great User Experience.