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Risks You Face If You Do Not Talk To Your Focus Users Group During A Product Design Stage

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Understanding users, their needs, pains, and habits are critical for a good product design process. We work a lot with subject matter experts that know a lot about their field, but unfortunately, sometimes everyone tries to “guess” what other people need… this approach may lead to poor product design, and here is why.

The Elastic User Phenomenon

Usually, you have several team members involved in the product design process, and everyone has their own ideas on how the system should work and what features to build. This may lead to building not what end users need but what “the team thinks the end users need.” By adding all ideas into the project, you end up building an extended version of what users expect. To avoid this, please involve someone who will use the module you design in the room and make the person the final decision maker.

Self-Referential Design Risk

Many industries still do not have agreed and well-documented “best practices” on how any work should be done. So in many cases, especially when you design for Small and Medium size businesses, you usually do a design for one company or a group of companies and not for everyone. In this case, our clients tend to design for their own needs and their own level of process maturity. This is fine if you build a product for one company only, but if you build a product for the market, you have to involve an Expert User like an Accountant, HR, Recruiter, or someone who knows the field very well and potentially will use or even recommend your product to others. So when you make the design decisions, please involve an Expert in the room.

Edge Cases Design Risk

Similarly to the previous, sometimes we design for very specific edge cases. It is important for the client and Product Designer to understand this and be aware that most of the other users will not use the system the same way you design it. By focusing too much on these unique scenarios, you risk alienating the majority of your user base, who may find the product overly complex or not suited to their needs. Thus, balancing the needs of edge cases with more common user scenarios is essential for creating a broadly appealing product.

Misalignment with Market Needs

Without direct input from your focus user group, there’s a significant risk of misaligning your product with market needs. Market trends, user preferences, and technological advancements evolve rapidly, and failing to keep up with these changes can result in a product that feels outdated or irrelevant by the time it launches. Regular feedback sessions with actual users ensure that the product remains in sync with current market expectations and user demands.

Increased Development Costs

Neglecting user feedback early in the design process can lead to increased development costs down the line. If the product does not meet user needs or expectations, you may have to go back to the drawing board, redesign, and redevelop significant portions of the product. This iterative process of fixing issues post-launch is far more expensive and time-consuming than incorporating user feedback from the start.

Lower User Adoption and Satisfaction

Products that do not resonate with their intended users will likely see lower adoption rates and user satisfaction. When users feel that a product does not address their specific needs or solve their problems effectively, they are less likely to use it consistently or recommend it to others. This can lead to poor market performance and negative word-of-mouth, ultimately harming the product’s success and the company’s reputation.

Lack of Competitive Edge

In a crowded market, user-centric design can be a key differentiator. Products that are designed with direct input from users often stand out because they address real pain points and deliver a superior user experience. Ignoring user feedback can result in a product that blends in with the competition rather than standing out. Engaging with your focus user group can provide insights that help you create unique features and functionalities that give your product a competitive edge.

Final Thoughts

To avoid these risks, your team must plan user interviews and prototype demos already at the Product Design Stage. If you are a client, you better give the team access to the focus user group. By involving your users early and often in the design process, you can ensure that the final product meets their needs, fits into their workflows, and exceeds their expectations. This user-centric approach not only mitigates the risks outlined above but also sets the foundation for a successful and well-received product.

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