User Research in Pre-Launch Startups: Methods and Tools to Use When There Are No Users [yet]

User research is essential for developing products and services that meet future users’ demands, provide them with a positive user experience, and ultimately increase user satisfaction, brand loyalty, and commercial success.

Photo by Remy Gieling on Unsplash

Even if there are no real users for a product or service, you can still conduct user research to learn about them and make design decisions based on what you know. Here are some research methods you can consider:

You may learn a lot about your target market, industry, and competitors by conducting desk research and reading reports, articles, and statistics that have already been compiled. Industry-specific sites, government sites, and academic databases all contain valuable materials. These are some examples of available materials:

  • Pew Research Center: Provides data and analysis on various topics, such as online communities, media, and demographic shifts.
  • Statista: A statistics platform that gives users access to market information, consumer trends, and sectors.
  • Google Scholar: A search engine that lets you look for academic papers and articles on many topics.

Look at your competitors’ apps to see what they do well and where you can fill in the gaps. This can help you determine what your target market’s users want and need. Here’s an excellent place to look:

“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes.
The wise man learns from the mistakes of others” —
Otto van Bismark.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Conduct surveys to learn more about your target audience’s needs, preferences, and behaviors. You can use online survey tools to create surveys and send them to the right people. Here are some resources:

  • SurveyMonkey: An online survey platform that offers a free plan for creating and distributing surveys.
  • Google Forms: A free tool that lets you do surveys, send them out, and put the answers in a Google Sheet.
  • Typeform: A platform for online surveys with free and paid plans, with the paid plans having more features.

Interview people who fit the target audience’s profile to find out their needs, motivations, and pain points. Participants can be found through online communities or personal networks.

Expert interviews can help you learn from people who know much about your target market or industry or have much experience. You can find experts by connecting with people in your field, attending events, and looking for experts on LinkedIn or websites for your domain. Here are some resources:

  • LinkedIn: A site for professional networking that lets you look for experts in your field and get in touch with them.
  • Quora: A site where you can ask questions and get answers from experts in different fields.
  • HARO (Help a Reporter Out): A service that puts reporters in touch with experts who can help them with their stories.

Create user personas based on your research to create made-up versions of the people you want to reach. This can help you build things with the user in mind. Here are some resources:

Create a user journey map to understand the steps users will take to use your app to achieve their goals. You can use this to pinpoint problems and areas where the user experience could be enhanced. Here is a helpful link:

You can collect feedback on the user experience and spot usability problems by creating a prototype of your product or service and testing it on a small group of people who suit the desired audience profile. The following sources Here are some resources:

  • Figma: A design and prototyping tool (My favorite)
  • Marvel: A prototyping tool that allows you to create and test prototypes.
  • UserTesting: A platform that helps you recruit participants and get prototype feedback.

Focus groups bring together a limited number of people corresponding to your target market to discuss their experiences with your product or service. Participants can be found by contacting your network, using online forums or social media, engaging with a market research company, or other methods. Here are some resources:

  • Qualtrics: A platform for market research that provides tools for designing and running surveys and focus groups.
  • FocusGroup.com: A company offering services for recruiting and moderating focus groups.
  • Reddit: An online community where you may gather details about your sector and your target market to entice members.

With these research techniques and tools, you may learn a lot about your target market, helping you develop goods and services that appeal to their wants and needs.

You can also use ChatGPT to conduct competitor analysis, define key business metrics, identify your users and their behavior, and reach the target audience for insights.

In this article, Nick Babich shows how to use ChatGPT to conduct research for a new hotel booking mobile app focused on the US market.

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