Henry Ford once said that, if he’d asked his customers what they wanted, they’d have asked for a faster horse. In the high tech industry, this quote is often used to justify not talking to users. After all, if customers don’t know what they want, why bother talking to them?
You need to talk to users because, if you ask the right questions, they will help you build a better product. The key is figuring out the right questions.
For starters, users are great at telling you when there’s something wrong with your product. They can tell you exactly which parts of the product are particularly confusing for them or are keeping them from being happy, repeat customers. Figuring out what to do about those problems is your job.
In general, users are not going to be able to answer the following types of questions:
- What new technical innovation is going to revolutionize a particular industry?
- What’s the next cool gadget that you’d like to buy?
- Do you think that people like you would buy this new cool gadget that you’ve just learned about?
- What new features would make this product more interesting/compelling/fun/easy to use? (although, this question becomes more answerable when the user is presented with some options for which features they might prefer.)
- How exactly should we change the product to make it easier for you to use?
- What do you most love or hate about this product?
- Do you find anything about this product hard to use or confusing?
- Does this product solve your problem better or worse than what you’re currently doing?
- How are you currently solving a particular problem that may or may not be addressed by this product?
- What don’t you like about your current solutions for a particular problem?
- Why did you choose this particular solution as opposed to another solution?