Conducting research on products and technology in one’s industry or competitive marketplace can help inspire new ideas or inform requirements for developing new products and technologies. Many times, researching others informs UX patterns that don’t need to be reinvented, or inform problems you have an opportunity to innovate for.
Things to evaluate while researching others’ websites or applications:
- Design style
- Color scheme
- Pros and cons of the product
- What not to do
In his talk, Design for Continuous Experimentation, former Etsy principal engineer Dan McKinley noted that it wasn’t until after a big failure that Etsy learned one of their mistakes along the way was not doing the necessary homework up front to find out if a feature would make sense for their site. Etsy learned to break experiments into “short, measurable, and isolated” segments that keep their development process fluid and nimble. The success or failure of each design piece ultimately allows you to add, subtract, or modify elements to hone in on your best overall UX.
UX Designer Steve Baty adds that you should, “Let ‘non-users’ and ‘near-users’ inspire the best UX design.” Non-users, or those who intentionally avoid certain experiences, are in the best position to deliver useful clues about what should change to make something more agreeable, or user-friendly. Near-customers who use products occasionally can tell you what they like, but also what is likely to draw them away. Loyalty can motivate users to turn a blind eye to bad UX, but non- and near-users can help you deliver high-quality UX to match your products.