I've worked with a startup recently and I've noticed that they didn't do any user research upfront. They wanted to go straight to design without knowing users needs and problems. So, I've started wondering if this is a startup's problem or not. Maybe because of the fast-pace environment and the high pressure startups don't have time to do user research extensively. I'm thinking about interviewing users, build up personas and scenarios and then design for them. Maybe is too much. So, how can a startup know their users and design for them? User centered design in startup is possible? According to the lean process - build measure learn - there isn't user research upfront. There are just assumptions that need to be validated with an MVP (learn stage). I've read an article from Cooper that suggest to shift the learn stage before the build stage - something like : learn build measure. I totally agree with him.

What do you think about it?? Thank you

  • 1
    This is a bit rambly. What exactly is your question here?
    – JonW
    Oct 12, 2015 at 9:46
  • What's the best way for a startup to know their users and do user research before start build? Oct 12, 2015 at 10:25
  • One would assume that they would have at least done some kind of 'market research' to come up with the idea for the service/product... otherwise how would they come up with the requirements?
    – Michael Lai
    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:14
  • 3
    "I've worked with a startup recently and I've noticed that they didn't do any user research upfront." Story of my life. Almost every [non-startup] company I've worked for does no user research. A major part of all my jobs has been selling UX to clients and to our own coworkers. Oct 12, 2015 at 14:09
  • 1
    Actually that is LeanUx - design - test - fail - try again in order to hit a good solution.
    – FrankL
    Oct 12, 2015 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


The most important thing you can do is get to know your (target) users. The best way to do that is to visit them and observe them doing whatever your app will help with. Watch them look stuff up online, fill out paper forms, communicate with others, etc. Just watch and notice the repetitive tasks and those they have difficulty with. Then design to support those tasks.

If you can't observe, then phone interviews will do. Surveys are typically not good for learning the things UX Designers need to know.


Don't lose yourself in too much detail with personas and so on. Sure they are a very helpful tool. But when this startup has no research done, they will not see any benefit in using such tools at first stage.

Try to start with just small field studies. Make a questionaire, paper prototype,.. something which does not need too much effort, but makes people discuss about the product. Then go on the street and ask people. You will be surprised.

This can be easily done and give you a first insight if an idea does matter for people you think you are designing for (the worst answer would be: "i don't care"). And it gives you the possibility to give the guys from the startup first results and discussion topics, so they see a benefit in doing proper user research.

  • Thank you so much. But, you know, there are many kind of people and the product isn't for everyone. Maybe have an idea on who could be possible users and then test this idea with interviews could be good? What if the product is a complex one or requires long-term relationship to see the value? For example, Pinterest, has no value if people don't pin content from all over the web. To get this value time's needed. Oct 12, 2015 at 10:31
  • Maybe this "personas hypothesis" (as Garret called it in his book About Face), should arises from stakeholders interviews and business analysis as well as review of forums and all kind of product that could be related to the product's domain or could give some useful insights. Oct 12, 2015 at 10:40
  • I agree, that talking to random people may not be in the sense of how to reach best valuable data. Still I experienced such surprises, that people we never thought of, were interested in a specific aspect of the product/service,... and gave valuable input via discussion. So when you are lucky enough to have a clear description of your customer, go to places where you may find them. Especially when you start from scratch it is helpful to get people's concerns/wishes/fears/needs/expectations/experiences,...
    – wassx
    Oct 12, 2015 at 11:16

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