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The key to competitive digital services

The key to creating digital products and services your customers – and your business – love, is to work insight-driven. But what does that really mean and why is that? Doesn't doing user research just take time and cost money? Osynlig's Design Manager Jonas Englund clears up the question marks.

"The most expensive thing you can do is build something that nobody wants to use," says Jonas Englund, Design Manager at Osynlig.

What does it mean to put the customer, or the user, at the center?

  • All products and services are made for someone to use them. Working user-driven means that you start from the needs of your users and develop a product or service that solves a real problem they have. The most expensive thing you can do is build something that nobody wants to use, says Jonas Englund, Design Manager at Osynlig.

Why is it important?

  • The competition is fierce today. In most cases, users have several similar solutions to choose from, making quality and user experience crucial. If you succeed in being the first to do something, you can count on competitors quickly coming to catch your breath. In order to achieve high quality and create a good user experience, you need to understand your users' needs and what problem it is that you are solving. When you understand that, you will build better products, with better results.

  • Another important aspect is that it helps you build the right things. Development costs time and money, and few companies can afford to burn the budget on something that doesn't deliver. I can feel that there is sometimes stress in companies where they think that they have to digitize in order not to fall behind. And so you start investments without first understanding what the customers need, or without really knowing who the intended customer is. It will be expensive.

  • It's a bit like building a house. It's easy to start by choosing flooring or wallpaper. It's fun and concrete. But instead, you need to start by thinking about what needs you have, and how you will use the house. It might not be so smart with delicate herringbone parquet in the future children's room, for example. In the same way, it is easy to go straight to the solutions when it comes to digital development. Instead, what you need to do is take a step back, and start by calling in and understanding the problem you're trying to solve.

But doesn't it take a long time? Wouldn't it be better to just drive on?

  • Of course, you can't talk to every single user, or spend endless time in the research phase. Do enough. It's only when you shoot something sharp that you get the answer to whether it really works or not.

How do I know that I have done enough research?

  • The difficult answer is that it depends. It's about the risk you want to take. Do you want to spend more time understanding and get a longer time to market or do you want to quickly push something out and instead take the risk that what you have built needs to be reworked? For a start-up, it may be better to take a bigger risk and get something out quickly, while for a well-known, established company, releasing something that isn't good enough can hurt the brand. So it's about choosing how you place the risk, and of course also about what resources you have. In general, my recommendation is to start with one thing that you know provides user value, do it really well, and then scale up, rather than starting broad and vague.

  • The important thing to remember is that it is always an ongoing process. It's not something you do as a one-off effort, you need to build a long-term relationship with your users. You can't just do a user survey - you need to involve the users in the entire development process.

Now we have mainly talked about developing something new. What should be considered when further developing an existing product?

  • There are two situations: either we develop the product or we phase it out. There is no intermediate position. If you stand still, the competitors will pull past. You need to have a work process where you constantly learn about what works and capture new user needs. It's not just about what your competitors are doing, new digital services from other industries are also advancing the expectations of your customers.

  • In a larger perspective, the success factor is to build a culture and organization that is really customer or user focused. So the whole organization and not just the product team. That's when you get the most value from working close to your users.

How do you do it? We will return to that in part two of this series.

Jonas Englund is Design Manager at Osynlig and has extensive experience working with product management and strategic UX.

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