product management, User Research

The Importance of Qualitative Research

After extended conversations, I was recently asked to join Strings to help build a new content publishing and social media platform. It’s an opportunity for me to help inform and build the product roadmap — based largely on entirely new user research — at a consumer app startup.

It’s critical to understand who users are, where they come from, what they use (or want to use) the app for, and how they actually use it… but at Strings there are far more questions than answers right now.

We’ll use a variety of methods to collect data, including pretty basic analytics from Fabric/Crashlytics, Google Analytics, and Apple’s App Store. We’ll also field some surveys for beta users. But quantitative data will only help us so much at this stage, since the product is so young.

Qualitative data is generally far more important for a product that has not yet found product-market fit.

It sounds obvious but bears spelling out… finding product-market fit requires aligning the product with the market… that is, users’ interests/needs. That alignment doesn’t guarantee success, but it puts you on a possible path to success.

Not all startups invest much in user research, which typically suggests to me that the founder thinks they know what users want… and is likely wrong about a great many things. I’d guess that this is the biggest reason startups fail. Not in failing to attract users, but failing to effectively solve the right problem.

For a startup, qualitative research helps understand and qualify user needs far better than quant does. It helps you discover new perspectives, uses, hesitations, and more that you don’t even know to look for otherwise, let alone try to measure.

Most product managers and UXRs (user experience researchers) only get to approach this challenge from one angle. It will challenging, but hopefully very rewarding, to be involved in different stages of research and inform the product roadmap directly.