We recently worked with two digital clients who have, in combined total, more than 12,000 competitors online and in the app stores. Twelve thousand competitors!
Both of these companies approached us thinking they could beat the market by creating a better interface for their users; and to some degree, they were right. But of much greater use to them was how we conducted research that led us to novel designs in their space.
We begin by hitting the books. Literally.
We use online databases and every library we can find to come up with awesome psychographic, demographic, and ethnographic data. We then collate this into a readable framework that often gives us special insight into the market we are studying. And we go deep to find it. This isn’t Wikipedia work or the surface knowledge you can get from typing something into Google; this is study led by thesis papers and psychiatric journals and industry-specific publications: work done by fellow anthropologists, psychiatrists, and scientists.
And then we do something that maybe the Mad Men of the sixties did, but no one seems to be doing today – we get out of the building and talk to people. We test our customer’s products. We test competitive products. And we watch people perform activities using NO product, to form a baseline of interaction, expectation, and discovery. All said, our in-house study comprises about 40% of our time, whereas the outside work, talking with or watching real users, comprises 60% of our time. This is old-school-work; away from the computer; no phone, no web – just one researcher and one user. And the results are quite different from what you can glean from behind a desk.
In the two markets I mentioned, with 12,000 apps available, we found four user actions that were undertaken by ALL users that NONE of these competitors had ever seen. None. The builders/owners of those apps had never left their desks, and it showed.