According to a Harvard study, 95% of new products fail for various reasons. variety of reasons. Some of these reasons may include a new product that is just too hard to use for an average user, or maybe the marketing failed to compel the customers.
Whatever the case is, it is essential always to keep users at the forefront of product development as this minimizes the risk of potential failures in the product.
In this article, Continuous Discovery UX, we will discuss how from product discovery to post-launch will ensure user satisfaction while meeting business needs.
This article will also discuss the following topics:
What is continuous product discovery in UX
Continuous discovery is a process where product teams search for new information about user needs using research methods such as weekly customer touchpoints and hypothesis testing. This goal is to uncover product experience insights and user behavior data. Thus, this method is used by product teams then use this data to evolve, adapt, and refine their ideas.
Tomer Sharon describes this process as fast-rhythm research that is open-ended by nature. It’s not dedicated to any specific topic, nor it’s not research that anyone asked for.
Continuous discovery consists of small, frequent research activities designed to understand users on an ongoing basis better.
It includes activities like weekly customer interviews, focus groups, or tools that give a constant stream of information on what the customers are thinking, how they are experiencing the product, and what the specific needs are.
Teresa Torres explains that product discovery refers to research aimed to identify what a product team should build, what are the solutions, features ,and improvements, which are all based on the users needs. Additionally, Teresa Torres defines continuous discovery as the sustained practice of product discovery to inform product development decisions
For effective continuous discovery, product teams should ask customers open questions to better understand them and share concrete ideas or wireframes for feedback.
In short, continuous UX research is about pro-actively researching to regularly gain insights into the users’ behaviors, needs, and desires. Another purpose of this method is not only to adapt quickly to upcoming challenges but also to act foresightedly and to be one step ahead of tomorrow’s research demands.
Stages of continuous discovery
Here are the phases that we normally see in the traditional product model:
- Start with ideas and assumptions
- Do user research
- Refine ideas and define solutions
- Build and deliver a product
- Test and tweak
However, in continuous discovery models, the research and refinement sections don’t stop when delivery starts since product teams remain curious and open to change. The product team continually strives for a deeper understanding of their users’ needs and adapts based on the discoveries.
Why product teams should engage in continuous discovery?
Linear discovery fixates on outputs, while continuous discovery focuses on outcomes such as customer satisfaction and product research fit.
The process of continuous discovery opens up opportunities for product teams to create real value for their customers. It encourages the product team to question the assumptions, learn how their customers think, and constantly find ways to improve the products.
Below are the other benefits of utilizing continuous discovery habits:
- Building trust with existing customers
- Continuously building, measuring, and learning for speed and agility
- Product team promotes ownership and autonomy
- Knowing the right time to adapt or abandon non-functional ideas instead of sinking more resources
- Uncovering new user segments
The difference between continuous discovery vs project specific discovery
Most product creation processes have teams work linearly in clear and definite stages. As the team completes one stage, the team hands the deliverables for the next stage.
The most common and required stages include gathering, design, development, testing, deployment, and maintenance. Furthermore, teams also implement waterfall or workflows in one direction. This means that if the team decides to make changes in the first stages, every activity down stream is affected. Thus, the term “waterfall.” The teams that follow this waterfall method invest heavily in discovery at the first stages of the project while gathering requirements.
In the early 2000s, when teams mostly adopted agile, the big-design approach was not the proper approach. Thus, they continuously tried to distribute the requirements discovery process across iterations.
In the agile framework, the focus is on shipping a working product as quickly as possible. Iterating is based mostly on customer feedback. Since most teams work in sprints, they often have short time for the big upfront research method that most project-based teams conduct most of the time. Thus, some agile teams are pressured to complete all research in an unrealistic timeframe. Worst-case scenario, they also tend to skip research entirely.
With continuous discovery, agile teams are assisted with research benefits without compromising on speed and quality of research, which is less of a challenge for researchers.
The difference between UX research vs common research
Initiation by the team building the product
You often start the UX research as the management hand over the project. In most cases, when there is a need to do initial research, the topic is always given by the management.
However, continuous research starts when the employees (such as the product designer or product developer) start the research process. These people asked the UX researcher to do a research about this certain information for product creation.
You can easily start the research once the budget and resources become available to conduct the research in a non-project-based approach. Since continuous discovery is not project-related, it doesn’t require permission for each research process.
This means that you don’t have a long lead time. However, you need a UX researcher who can dispose of the required time contingent.
Shortened lead time
Continuous research does not require waiting until you are prompted to test the product. Instead, the research is conducted in parallel with product creation. This means that you get a shorter lead time. Reducing the lead time is a significant advantage in the agile product process.
When a researcher collects information such as customer feedback in a continuous manner, the researcher needs to quickly react to new research requests from fellow team members instead of setting them as a starting point. Results are acquired quicker this way.
Contrary to common research methods, continuous UX research reports don’t need to be explicitly prepared for specified viewers. You don’t need to put your insights in PDFs or PowerPoint presentations. This is an advantage as continuous UX research isn’t about creating extra work for you. One can simply save the results in a searchable format.
The advantages of utilizing continuous discovery in UX
One of the goals of utilizing continuous discovery in UX is consistently conducting user research to gain insight into the customer pain points, needs, and desires. These types of research help us continually learn the customers behaviors and expectations evolve in several different ways that we cannot predict all the time. By frequently gathering customers feedback, we are one step ahead of the competition. Additionally, we can quickly adapt to upcoming challenges when designing a product.
Gain valuable customer insights
We are all aware of the constant change in user needs. Most often than not, many users realize that what they initially wanted isn’t right for them at present. The user needs constantly change. Thus, for product designers, this means they can end up designing a product that is not fitting or, worse, not useful for the customers.
This is where we take advantage of constantly researching the users, as we become aware of changing mindsets. This will allow us to recognize a shift in the users' needs that will help correct the adapted decisions. You'll gain valuable long-term customer insights by conducting research from product discovery to post-launch.
Continuous user research helps us constantly gain knowledge into what’s troubling the users, including what’s working for them. Thus, we can make decisions using relevant data from discovery research.
Drives customer-centric decisions
Continuous product discovery is a critical element that we should be utilizing during each phase product development cycle. It helps an organization bring customer-centered digital experiences to life with lesser risk and time allotted, including fewer resources. Product discovery also provides a deeper understanding of your prospective and current customers.
Continuous discovery also guarantees confidence within teams as they continually interact with the customers to better understandtheir expectations, which in return, a greater chance of meeting them.
Integrating continuous UX research into the work routine
Clarify the budget
Always talk with the management about your continuous research budget as one of the challenges faced in continuous UX research involves the lack of cost predictability.
Costs are easier to estimate in project-specific research. However, in continuous UX research, the costs are also continuous, which are not directly relatable to a specific project. In addition, there is no defined end to the research process as well. Thus, calculating the ROI requires a new way of thinking for these reasons. Try to look at continuous research activities as an investment in the company’s future.
Research intervals planning
Planning the user research in intervals helps boost your input. We recommend engaging with customers at least every week by collecting a week’s questions and then discussing them with the users.
Doing it this way will get us continuous input and turn the product development into a co-creation process.
Continuous UX research should be conducted by the team building the product. This is true in the case of two heads being better than one. If the whole team has access to the storage of research findings, they must not communicate with the UX researcher first. Instead, they can add their input themselves. This has the positive side effect of information not getting lost.
Rules for storing knowledge
Continuously conducting research is worth nothing when all your precious findings are never to be found again.
Rules are needed when people collaborate on a project or research. Otherwise, everything turns into chaos. Applying that to continuous research means regulating the knowledge-storing process.
Keep your knowledge actionable, and try to keep the information in a way that allows anyone to index it later.
Powerful knowledge base
Once your data is stored safely, you can always refer to it. And by referring we mean connecting what you already know with what you’ve learned recently. This way, you keep your old research actionable and create a reliable knowledge base over time that will prospectively help you to answer upcoming questions.
Knowledge synthesizing as a motivator
Synthesizing your findings eventually appears to you like putting together a puzzle. And like every game a puzzle is more fun when doing it in a team. Seeing how your puzzle part connects with others to create a new insight can increase your team’s motivation.
Having a place where your UX knowledge is centrally stored makes it easier to communicate your findings with others. It simplifies the onboarding of colleagues to the knowledge-collecting process and keeps other departments updated. Starting from the UX repository, the knowledge can leave the UX department and be utilized for marketing campaigns for example.
What did we learn from the continuous product discovery framework? Here's a recap:
- We can build trust with our existing customers
- We can build, measure, and continuously learn things for speed and agility
- We can feel confident in terms of ownership and autonomy
- We can easily adapt or abandon the non-functional idea
- We can uncover new user segments
In continuous discovery research, we can conduct and learn activities on a weekly basis, from customer interviews, focused groups, or utilizing tools that provide us with a constant stream of information about the customers, including their experiences with the product.
To achieve an effective continuous discovery, a product team should ask customers open questions to better understand them and share concrete ideas or wireframes for feedback with other team members.
Continuous UX research involves the team to proactively conduct research to gain insights into the customers' behaviors, needs, and desires.
Another purpose of utilizing this method is not only to adapt quickly to upcoming challenges but to act foresightedly and to be one step ahead of the researchers demands.
How do we integrate this method into our everyday work routine?
First, we should define a clear budget to achieve a clear outcome representing business value. Then we should work as a team. In this method of research, the more, the merrier as we gain more insights from different team members.
Since collaboration is involved, we should also try to set rules regarding storing, utilizing, and organizing the information gathered by the team in the company.
I hope this article provided you with enough information that will help you evaluate a solutions to address or target an opportunity that will help achieve customer value, drive outcomes, and create long term business value.