Finding Opportunity in the App Market: Identifying User Pain Points
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A mobile touchpoint has the power to enhance user experience (UX), providing many benefits such as strengthening company reputation with positive brand interactions, improving customer satisfaction, as well as increasing sales and return on investment (ROI).


With the number of smartphone users currently exceeding 5 billion worldwide, mobile UX is an essential part of mobile app development. One major weakness companies currently face is an inability to conduct effective user research and identify user pain points. 


This article will examine both qualitative and quantitative research methods, both of which deliver key insights and value for identifying and solving user pain points. Mastering these techniques helps organizations develop mobile products that resonate with users and exceed expectations. 


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Who Is Your Target Audience?

Every decision made during mobile app development needs to revolve around user needs and motivations. Once you have identified the audience segment (who you want to target), you need to identify their pain points, what they value, and their behaviors. It’s important to remember when developing a product or service to tailor it to meet the needs of a particular set of users, rather than a generic group.

The Value of Audience Segmentation

Mobile app user segmentation is the process of grouping users together based on mutual motivators and allows you to target users more effectively. Each user has a unique set of needs and motivators, but can be grouped by common identifiers. By uncovering and analyzing geographic, demographic, behavioral, and psychographic data, you will gain a well-rounded understanding of what your target users are trying to accomplish by using your product.


Over time, user segmentation will help you expand your app to address additional pain points. Once your users trust your product as a practical solution to one of their problems, they will return to your brand for future pain points.


User segmentation also serves an essential marketing function. Understanding your users’ pain points gives marketers the right information they need to prepare brand messaging based on that need. The segmentation process sets your product up for great acquisition and retention rates by providing marketers with the appropriate data to target and retarget the right users.

User Research

Once you’ve determined your audience segment, you need to examine your target audience group in greater detail. Do you understand why your customers will buy your product or service?


Users are often searching for a solution that will solve a specific issue they’re experiencing, whether that’s a flawed mobile checkout or an inconvenient personal banking experience. Pain points motivate users to find a solution that will solve a problem. Identifying your customers’ pain points is the most important step during product ideation. Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting a lot of time and money building a product that no one wants or needs.


Establishing a seamless UX begins with a solid foundation of research and strategy.  If done correctly user research will reveal different mindsets, motivations, pain points, and behaviors of a targeted user group; key factors that ultimately decide if a product will be successful or not. Prior to conducting qualitative and quantitative research studies, it is important to conduct preliminary research that requires minimal effort but will reveal important information that will help you better understand your users’ needs and their overall goals for using your product before asking them directly. In many cases, users’ can’t articulate their needs or may be unaware of them altogether.


The following techniques provide many added benefits that will establish user-centric app development.

1. Ask the Experts

It’s important to begin your research by asking business experts and analysts for their insight. To understand your users’ true needs, you need to learn what has been done and what hasn’t worked in the past. 

2. Examine Products That Already Exist

Many products, if not all, have areas for improvement. Look up reviews, feedback, forums and any information that can help you address key issues for your set of users. Analyze where your competition is going with their products and find solutions they don’t offer. For example, as mobile devices get larger, the user-centered mobile design must adjust to being physio-friendly. Look at other products for fundamental issues like lack of customer service options, navigation or quality problems.

3. Go Directly to the Source

In a report by Google, 52% of users said a bad mobile experience made them less likely to engage with the company. Research your users’ attitudes before development to ensure that you build a product that is different from what your competition offers, addressing real pain points that exist in the market. Some common research methods include observational studies, user interviews, journal or diary studies, as well as surveys, behavioral analysis, and experience sample methods. 


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Qualitative User Research Methods 

Qualitative research is focused on observing potential users in the contexts of where and how they will interact with a product. Qualitative research methods require researchers to analyze human interactions, communication, and emotions with the product to gain insights that will help identify new opportunities and trends. 


There are 2 common research methodologies for qualitative user research. These include:


  • Observational/Field Studies
  • Journal/Diary Studies

Observational/Field Studies

A lab study places a user and a prototype of a mobile app in an environment where interactions between the two are observed. To gather meaningful information, this environment needs to resemble real-life situations to replicate how a user would actually use the product in their daily lives, and further evaluate whether the user can use the product as it is designed. Lab studies also allow researchers to interact with the subject and ask questions to gain further insights. 


This research method involves having a user write down when, how, why and other observations each time they use the app. This helps businesses and developers answer; when do users use our app? And in what contexts do they use our apps? This type of research also provides businesses with honest feedback that can reveal areas for improvement. 

Quantitative User Research Methods

Quantitative research provides businesses with numerical and statistical data, which can be extremely influential in convincing stakeholders to buy in and invest in a project or concept. It is for this reason that Quantitative user research is primarily conducted in the early stages of a development project.  


There are 3 common research methodologies for quantitative user research. These include:


  • Surveys/Questionnaires
  • Behavioral Analysis
  • Experience Sample Methods


Preliminary surveys and questionnaires are straightforward and provide a critical channel for collecting data from potential users. By answering a set of questions, businesses can learn what their target audience values, their expectations, pain-points, etc. This research method is cost-effective and can return large amounts of data. Furthermore, researchers can even ask why users decided to use a competitor’s app and gain insight into how they found it and what motivated them to continue to use that particular product. 

Behavioral Analysis

Behavioral analysis is essential to understanding user traffic patterns. Often, behavior analysis is conducted alongside a survey – to try and develop a clearer picture of why users are interacting the way they are. It is conducted by installing software on a participant’s device that will track how they navigate through an app and how they use that app.

Competitive Analysis

This research method is not only easy to conduct but is cost-effective and can provide great insights from a potential user base. For this research method, businesses need to identify their competitors and evaluate their mobile products for strengths and weaknesses to identify what potential users are thinking when they use a competitor’s product. To do this, a researcher can provide a user with their competitor’s app and gather data on how they interact with it.


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Three Common Mistakes in User Research

Conducting General User Research Without Any Focus

Sometimes, the constraints of a project —time, budget, resources—don’t allow researchers the opportunity to conduct numerous studies over a long period. Because of this, businesses need to define what they want to learn from their research, which user groups are most important to include, and which tasks are most important to observe. This will help narrow the focus of the research which will allow businesses to gather detailed information about the user groups and tasks that will influence their success the most. It is important to remember that general, unfocused research produces general, unfocused findings, that make it difficult to identify definite solutions.

Relying Too Much or Too Little on What Participants Say

The goal of user research is to understand users, their tasks, and their environment. While the best way to gain these insights is to observe and interact with them in their natural environments, many research methodologies place these users in environments that only try to replicate that natural environment. When conducting these types of studies, researchers need to be aware that participants may feel the need to please those observing them by providing favorable responses, based on how questions are asked. Furthermore, researchers also need to be aware that it is difficult for participants to describe their tasks and the problems they face accurately when they’re not in the context within which they usually perform those tasks.

Having Too Many People Involved in Field Studies

While it is important to allow stakeholders and team members to attend and observe various field studies, it is important to note that involving large amounts of people in these studies has the potential to make participants feel uncomfortable which defeats the purpose of trying to observe participants in their natural behavior. Usability labs, focus-group facilities, and remote sessions make it easier for many people to observe research sessions discreetly, without affecting the participants physically or psychologically.

How to Implement Learnings

While qualitative and quantitative user research answer different questions, both are necessary to develop the best user experience. User research provides product teams with insight and data that is necessary to develop a product that will truly speak to their targeted users. Once the research has concluded product teams need to validate all of their findings  based on their research. To do this teams begin the next phase of research by introducing an app prototype which will then lead to the creation of a minimum viable product (MVP), an excellent development strategy to improve your product iteratively. This will reveal user behaviors and attitudes which will prove to be of great benefit as you’ll be able to understand where they’re bouncing off during the customer journey. To do this product teams need to understand the following techniques that will help them to get into the minds of your users:

1. User Personas

Creating user personas well help reveal truths and validate assumptions to identify underlying pain points. Personas are user profiles that outline the demographic, user behaviors, as well as user needs and goals. Essentially, personas help your product team get a 360 degree understanding of the who and why of what they’re building.

2. Customer Journey Mapping

Many companies don’t adequately track the customer journey which is essential to adapt to changing customer behaviors. During product discovery, implement a user-centric strategy to ensure your user experience is as smooth as possible. In turn, you will transform customers into loyal brand followers.


A customer journey map helps to illustrate the customer experience from the user’s perspective, helping you to understand exactly how customers are interacting with your brand and highlight areas for improvement. Despite the type of experience you want to map, every association throughout a customer’s journey contributes to how they perceive the brand, which ultimately drives customer loyalty. Focus on what angers users or turns them away from the brand. These are the areas of the customer journey map that need to be improved.


Both user personas and customer journey maps are useful techniques to use to understand who you are building your product for, from realizing their demographic to desires, pain points, expectations, and much more.

It’s All About User Experience 

Consumers today not only expect UX design but need it to be satisfied. Consumers don’t want to jump from product to product, but instead find a brand that is designed to please them, which is why brands with exceptional UX win repeat visits, and eventually, new customers. This has allowed Amazon, Google, and Apple to grow into the tech giants that they are today. Because of this, companies are recognizing the need to keep up with changing user expectations to solve pressing UX issues. Otherwise, they won’t survive in the mobile app environment where experiences are more optimal and personal than ever before.

Keep Reading:

Finding Opportunity in the App Market: Competitor Research

4 Design Thinking Takeaways For Successful Mobile Products

A Step-by-Step Guide to Product Design & Discovery



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