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There's an app I am really interested in. It's an app about rural journalism. In India we don't have news channels covering the issues of rural areas (well they do cover but it's not enough). The app which I want to redesign is actually doing something to raise the voice of rural india. The only problem is that it's still in the early stages and it only has 1k+ downloads. The app was released in 2020. Because of this I can't really find its users. The app doesn't have any Discord, subreddit, etc. It has a Facebook page but the users are not there.

What should I do? I don't want to skip the user research part. Some people suggested that I should do some competitive analysis but is it enough?

Edit : I AM NOT WORKING WITH THE DEVELOPERS OF THE APP.

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After reading through the other responses and your remarks, I feel like there are still things I can add.

1. User research

If you cannot reach actual users, the second best group to work with are potential (new) users. What would designers of a entirely new app do? They don't have any users at their disposal because they user base is simply non-existent yet. You could treat your project the same way and start recruiting potential users. To find out which people to recruit you can start by creating Personas and go as far as filling out a Business Model Canvas - whatever helps to get insights on who your potential users might be. A competitive analysis might also help here (e.g. to find out what are common or "bonus" features and maybe you can derive some user expectations from it).

2. Expert evaluation

One user is always available: you. While you should never focus too much on the "I-methodology", don't forget that you can still find out a lot on your own. Especially when there is already an existing product that you want to improve. In order to improve, you first need to find out what needs improvement - and that is where evaluation comes in. There is a number of methods that could be applied here, for example Heuristic Evaluation, a cognitive walkthrough, or other Usability Inspection methods.

These insights might also help you reflect on the characteristics of the app and you as its user, which might in turn help you to generate an informed definition of your target users, which you then can recruit for your user research -> back to step 1.


To follow up on that and what was also mentioned by Dan: You don't have to make it perfect on first try. UX and Usability Design are iterative procedures. The goal is not to be perfect, because it will never be perfect for everybody. The goal is to learn and then make it better on the next try. Once you get more insights, you will adapt your target user definition or find out about real users and make more informed decisions in the next iteration.

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Andrew gave a great response.

Taking everything into consideration, personal project, struggling to recruit participants, small audience — I'd probably look at some competitor research and create an app to get started. Then you can share it, get feedback from users and if it gains more traction you can do more research and iterate.

You won't launch the perfect product, going through phases of iteration will show a journey and how you listen to your user feedback to make updates but none of this will happen if you remain stuck at the beginning trying to recruit participants because you feel like you can't skip this step(you can always revisit it!).

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It's not clear if you are working with the owners/developers of the app or not but, in any case, you appear to be going about this a bit upside down.

Finding a set of users for an app is much more difficult than building an app for a set of users.

It sounds, to me, like you're trying to sell a UX process to a business that already has an app with limited success. In my experience, an app with such a small number of downloads is either about to be deleted because it is considered unsuccessful, or it is run by a single developer as a pet project. Either way, I don't think you're going to get very much out of this. If it's an unsuccessful app then the company are going to want to cut their losses and walk away without spending any more than they have to. If it's a pet project then there won't be any money to invest in UX. To know for certain you can always contact the app owners via the app store.

It also sounds like this would be a passion project for you. In that case, I would suggest designing your own app, building on what you think the other app does that is so good. Then you can take it around looking for either a developer who aligns with your passions or someone who will put up the money for it to be developed and promoted. This would, of course, mean providing some market research which, in turn, would lead you to YOUR users.

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  • first of all thanks. first thing I gonna clear here is that this is MY PERSONAL PROJECT. I am not working with the developers of the app. Now about the app, the app is called Gaon connection. Basically its an initiative by a very famous journalist. I really liked the initiative bc the mainstream media dose not give any reasonable space to rural news. They have a website too with the same features as the app. I really liked the idea of designing my own app. Thanks again (:
    – vatsalay
    Jan 12 at 9:06
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    In that case, I would suggest sending a message to the journalist asking if they're interested in improving the app through user research. Start by telling them how great you think the app is and how good you think its aims are and then ask if they are interested. If they say no, then go ahead and design your own app anyway! Jan 13 at 14:21
  • I mailed him about this but he didn't responded.
    – vatsalay
    Jan 15 at 2:01
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I'm assuming you are working with the app developer and have the ability to request a small feature. Under that assumption, you could try running an in-app survey with a paid incentive (not sure what is possible or practical with your audience, but could they be entered into a drawing to win a Visa gift card or the like?) In the survey, you can ask demographic questions, research questions to supplement what you know about your users to date, and contact information for future research opportunities.

When you look at survey results, try to segment them into groups like "Fits into our target audience", "Fits into an audience we didn't know existed", and "Not here for the right reasons." The first two groups will help you determine some future direction, and if you get enough responses, you'll have a nice research pool for later studies.

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  • Thanks. I am not working with the developers of the app. Its just my personal project that I am doing. I am interested in this app bc I really liked the idea of this app. Its one of a kind app or initiative in India. The problem is that I cant really find the users of the app. I am trying to hard. I even tried to contact the developers of the app but there email address is broken. Messaged them in their fb group but they did not responded. Twitted about my research with the proper hashtag still no luck. At this point I am feel like giving up. I don't know what I am gonna do now. Thanks again.
    – vatsalay
    Jan 12 at 9:14
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    I would suggest, then, that you consider designing a new app that solves the same problem vs. trying to redesign an app that might not be succeeding anyway. To find potential users for research, you might go where those users are getting information today. WhatsApp?
    – Izquierdo
    Jan 12 at 14:38

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