Before the start of the project ask yourself and the team members:
- Who will use the product/service?
- What similar products/services are already on the market
(try to use them, read use-cases, available documentation, everything you can find)?
- How do people use available products/services?
- What problems do they encounter with available solutions?
- What users needs needs are not supported already?
After you have an answer to the first question, go find those people (nearby or online) and ask them the same set of question.
Not only ask but also observe if you have a possibility:
- visit their working place,
- attend a master-class on using a competitors product together with them,
- read thematic blogs and forums,
- watch what they do,
- listen to questions they ask,
- talk to them.
During exploration phase leave your mind open to the others ideas. Note down those ideas. Ask questions. Explore.
- Personas (max. 2 per target group) or a verbal portrait of users of the product including their lifestyle, activities related to the product usage;
- Benchmark (for each design aspect) comparison of competitors products with a product or an idea of your customer including main features but also defined in a goal metrics;
- Core use cases (max. 5 per product) or main usage scenarios.
- Opportunity areas (max. 1–5 cases) usually derived from users complains and requested features.
Note: the numbers given here are enough to do effective UX. Surely you will find more but you have to shortlist them. Otherwise will be difficult to stay focused.