Launching a new digital product is exciting. You’ve worked hard to identify your customers and map their needs to the features your product must have. You’ve carefully crafted the user experience. You’ve made, at-times, painful decisions to balance functionality and timeline when defining a MVP. You’ve used some combination of science and intuition to design a product you believe meets a market need, serves an underserved customer, and will move the needle for your business. You have an end product you are proud of.
Customer research was probably part of your design process. This might mean research reports from third-parties, formal user research sessions, customer feedback, analytics, surveys, anecdotes from the call center or sales team, etc. You used this research to generate some model of the customer and their needs, which in turn informed design and functionality decisions that resulted in the product you launched.
Now that your product is live - part of you will want to sit back and watch your perfectly executed vision perform. But you aren’t done yet! User research can be hugely helpful after launch. And if you didn’t get to do research pre-launch - now is your chance! User research can help you make decisions, groom your backlog, identify performance issues, and more. Let’s look at some of the situations user research can help you now.
You think you hit the mark, but want to be sure
Now that you are live, you will get pretty immediate feedback about how your product is performing in relation the the KPIs you defined during the planning process. How is funnel drop off? Are people using the product and returning? Is revenue at the level you need it to be and trending in the right direction? At this point, your product may or may not be performing as you expected. Your analytics will tell you what is happening but won’t tell you why. Maybe not as many people are signing up as you’d like or there is a huge dropoff in one step of your funnel. Is it a usability issue? Or maybe your copy and content aren’t selling the benefit. Maybe your imagery is falling flat? Running a quick user research event with 5 to 10 users you recruit by intercepting your traffic will give you a great feel for the detailed reasons your product is performing in certain ways and insight about what you can do about it.
You have a backlog of functionality you didn’t get to with initial launch (MVP)
It’s more than likely that you couldn’t get to everything you wanted to with your initial MVP launch. Now that your product is live, it is relatively easy to ask your users what they think of various new initiatives you are planning to roll out, again by intercepting them from your site traffic and engaging them in a research session. Users can help you evaluate whether new functionality you want to roll out is usable and appealing. There may be several pieces of functionality that different members of your team are convinced are absolutely necessary and must be deployed next. How do you choose between them? Put the alternatives in front of your users and see which performs better. User research can be a great tie-breaker and drive team alignment on priorities.
Something isn’t performing as expected
Maybe you’re seeing huge dropoff at a specific point in the funnel, conversions didn’t go up as much as expected, or revenue is flat. There can be many reasons why something isn’t performing. Internal conversations can get you a certain distance here - maybe you know the copy isn’t on-brand, the site is down every day and super slow, or the functionality is buggy in places. Even if you know all these things, do you know which one is hurting performance the most? Again, research can help you identify ways in which your site is falling short for your users.
You want to keep a closer eye on your KPIs / Your site is performing great, and you want it to be greater
Continuous monitoring and improvement of key business metrics is a good thing. It’s likely you have an analytics package installed and are spending time and money monitoring it to keep your finger on the pulse. Why not do the same with user research? Executing a guerilla user research observation event each month can be a quick way to significantly deepen your understanding of how and why your product is performing in certain ways and give a solid ground for continuously improving.
Because you can
You have a live product with an audience and you know not many sites are doing continuous customer feedback programs. So why wouldn’t you? What an amazing competitive advantage. This type of program doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive and can provide you the types of insights that differentiate your brand.
You don’t want to do a full redesign every 3 years
If you don’t involve users in your design process on an ongoing basis, you will almost inevitably reach a point where how your product functions as more of a model of the internal decision-making of your organization than how your customers would ideally like to be served. Your product will become watered down, bloated, and clunky. You’ll reach the point where a redesign is needed and start on another high-risk high-complexity full redesign. You don’t have to do a full redesign every 2, 3, or 5 years. If you involve users, you can incrementally tweak, add, subtract, and edit as time progresses in a logical way using user needs as your rationale and guidepost. This is a much better bet than a constant cycle of uninformed full redesign.
Generalizing all the above: You want to know why
There’s a theme here: have a reason for your design decisions. Talking to users helps you get these reasons. It helps you evaluate why certain things are happening, how to make them better, which from among several alternatives your customer prefers. Of course, internal business priorities and considerations are important, but they are only one piece of the puzzle. If those priorities are all that you use to drive your decisions, your product will just reflect your business when it should reflect your both your business and your users.