What Can You Do Today to Improve Your Startup’s User Experience?
What can you do to significantly improve your startup’s product with a minimal investment of time and money? Talk to your customers. Here are five easy steps to help you conduct user research (user interviews that don’t feel like “research” at all) that will help you to improve the user experience of your product or service.
1. Reach out to three people who recently purchased one of your products/subscriptions/services and schedule a 20-30 minute user interview.
Haven’t launched your product yet? Use your network to find people who have recently purchased a product/service that is similar to yours. Many people will be happy to provide you feedback for free but, if you’re having trouble recruiting, try offering a small incentive (like a gift card) or a discount on a future purchase.
2. Prepare your questions.
Based on the types of customers/potential customers you’re going to talk to and the type of product or service you have, create an outline of what you want to ask during the interview:
- If you’re interviewing a customer, ask them to walk through their most recent purchase with you. How was that experience from start to finish? Did they review competitors first? How did they ultimately make the decision? What happened when the product was delivered? You’ll need to tailor these questions for your particular product/service. Ideally, you want the customer to do the talking with minimal prompting from you.
- If you’re interviewing someone who has not used or purchased your product or service, ask them to walk you through their most recent experience with a competitor. You can also ask them to recount a recent offline experience to gain insight into how this process might play out online. Again, don’t inject your own opinions. Listen and ask the person to elaborate when necessary.
- Did I mention you should be quiet? Once you get the interviewee talking, the most important followup questions should be along the lines of “why is that?” “how did you do that?” and “what did you expect to happen?” Try to keep your opinions to yourself, and simply help the interviewee give more details about their experience.
3. Talk to these customers in-person in their environment (for example, their home or work space), via Skype/Google Hangouts or by phone.
You can gain a lot of insight by talking to someone in their own space—but that’s not always practical. Videoconferencing allows you to capture nonverbal gestures and, if that’s not possible, a phone call still gives you valuable information. Record the conversation (with the customer’s permission) or have someone else take notes for you. Do not become defensive or offer explanations for negative experiences. This can be difficult for some startup founders or designers, so consider having someone else conduct the interview. Another bonus of having a neutral third-party conduct the interview is the customer is less likely to hold back with the fear of hurting your feelings.
4. Analyze your findings.
Even after interviewing just three people, you’ll start to notice patterns. At a minimum, you’ll start to get into a glimpse into your customer’s world: how they make purchasing decisions, what stressors influence their decisions and what ultimately got them to part with their hard-earned money (or sign up for yet another social media app or, the hardest thing for all users, change their behavior). How can you use these new insights to improve your product, marketing copy, or how you advertise?
5. Keep going.
Thought you were done? Not quite! Hopefully this process has you wanting more. This exercise should be the impetus for ongoing research—aim to add to your research each quarter. Additional user interviews can become the framework for your product’s personas, as well as provide insight for customer journeys and task analysis.
Ongoing user interviews and ongoing research are critical as your product changes, as you add new features, and as technology, culture, and the economy naturally change and progress.