If you're familiar with the concept of Minimum Viable Product (MVP), you understand the importance of implementing build-measure-learn loop cycles whenever you're creating a new digital site, product or service. Learning about your users during this process is informally called "user research," and it can mean the difference between building something expected vs. something truly exceptional.
User research is different than market research, which concentrates on the consumer in the market economy. Instead, user research focuses on understanding user experience — those experiences associated with interacting with a product or site. How close your digital team is to potential users of the product can ultimately determine how successful they will be throughout its life cycle.
Sometimes product requirements drafts are seen as set in stone, which may make user research seem counterintuitive to those solely intent on meeting those requirements. There can even be an intense reaction and quiet resistance to research to avoid exploring alternatives, going back to the drawing board or financing additional rounds of revisions. But the most costly path of all is using engineering teams to build and launch a product, then relying solely on analytics to tell you whether it was the right thing to build (better known as opportunity cost).
Remember, problems in your site will be discovered at some point, and sticking your head in the proverbial sand will only delay the inevitable — at higher costs. Watching users interact with your product throughout the project life cycle has shown to be a critical tool to uncovering the insights that can help lead to true innovation.
Jonathan Orosco - Interactive Producer