Is Gathering Data Necessary To Build An Awesome Product?

Jeremy Gaston
3 min readMay 1, 2018
Le Buzz online magazine

Before you set out to create something new, I think it’s high time we face an ugly truth together — customers are liars. But not the pathological type of liars; that’d be too easy to spot. No, it’s always just enough to get your hopes up, then crush those same hopes.

You set out to gather some customer insights. You round up some your most loyal product users. Confined to a room devoid of any environmental design, fluorescent lights humming above, you pepper this superuser group with questions fit for calculating an NPS score. Finally, with hopes of better solving your customer’s problems, you ask them one of the most misguided questions as it relates to building great products — “how do you think we can make the thing better?”

And with all their deferred dreams and sci-fi meanderings hard-charging out of the shadows of their subconscious, they look you squarely between the eyes… and lie.

Unfortunately, customers have zero idea that most of their suggestions won’t make your product more impactful.

Left unchecked, users will most often suggest features that will create logical interactions. Yet, they’ve become accustomed to illogical interactions within their favorite products — meaning they would never really use the tools they’ve just suggested. Thus sending you on a fools errand.

Also, a single user or group of users might only represent a small subset inside your product. Which is why it’s gravely important to ask the right question to the right people, more than once.

When User Research Goes Wrong

In 2004, one of the world’s most influential soft drink brands showed us exactly why asking the right question is of the utmost importance.

A new millennia had been ushered in, and with it a host of low carb, low calorie fad diets. So, of course, Coca Cola wanted to cash in.

They keyed in on the market segment — Men, ages 20–40, who wanted the Coke taste but not the calories. They even gathered lots of market data as it pertained to diet trends and male preferences. So there was no way they could possibly get it wrong, right?

Wrong. Dead wrong. All kinds of stupid wrong!

Coca Cola debuted its new mid-calorie, low carb beverage, C2, with middle of the road taste and more carbs or calories than the American male market desired.

The product fell flat. And some execs paid dearly.

The issue: all of their research was mined to complement their assumptions. They failed to notice that the fad they were hoping to capitalize on was already trending down. And once their target market’s interests shifted, not even throwing $50 million in marketing at it was going to right the problem.

Yes, Data Matters

You have to be willing to sort through and uncover the correct insights about your target market. You cannot build a successful product without fully understanding your market’s problems and preferences. Go to where they are, sit down at the same table they do, eat the meals they eat. Then, you can begin to glimpse what’s really broken and the more effective way to solve it.

As a company, it’s imperative that you place a premium on User Researchers. Don’t make the assumption that data democratization via data aggregation tools (e.g. UsabilityHub, Analytics tools, etc) exempts your brand from hiring someone specifically to man this role.

Although more data is now readily available to more people across an individual company than every before, the correct interpretation of said data is still needed to be completed by research professionals qualified to do so.

Without the right partner to help your company extrapolate the correct data you can quickly miss the complete understanding of how to serve your users to an awesome experience.

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