User Research as a means of obtaining Product Requirements

17 Nov 2006 - 7:00am
1108 reads
Erik Guttman


I would like to clarify a particular aspect of user research, or to
obtain pointers to where this has already been done.

I generally work in the 'research' side of research and development.
The organizations I work in and my typical colleagues have great
technical insight and knowledge, but very little notion of who will
eventually use the end products of their innovation, how they will
use them, why, and so on.

I have undertaken user research programs to clarify these issues,
essentially to hammer down product requirements of the form
'The user has need X. This need is related to his or her problem Y.
The relative priority of this need (compared to other needs
identified here and to their overall needs) is Z.'

This information, especially when combined with task analysis, serves
as input for interaction design. Most of the literature I've read
considers this aspect of user research.

My application of the results has a different focus. I believe that
a reasonably accurate list of user needs can guide research and
development funding, product planning and adjust expectations of a
range of 'stakeholders' throughout a vendor organization.

I have repeatedly attempted to explain how user research can serve to
identify, prioritize and clarify product requirements. I have
difficulty for a variety of reasons.

- people confuse or fail to see the distinction between inbound
marketing research activities with user research
- people fail to distinguish between customers and users
- people do not understand the qualitative methods used to perform
user research
- people often confuse user research with usability studies

To clarify these points, I created a context map

What I'm really looking for is a clear explanation of user research
applied to supplying inbound data on user needs for general use
(beyond interaction designers).

I'm grateful for any links or discussion on this topic.

Best regards,

Erik Guttman

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