What is more important, user research first or direct shipping?

Since I recently joined a startup, I’ve noticed a pattern where our CPO and tenured PMs shipping products without or before any user research or testing. Based on what I understand to be best practices in product content I have studied and previous companies, this worries me.

When I joined, I chose an app function and began interviewing existing users to get to know them better and obtain their input on our suggested designs. I discovered that the corporation had not conducted any user research prior to this since the year 2020. Surprising.

Even if we could move quickly and deploy things, I’m tempted to continue conducting user interviews and user research to guide product and design decisions.

I want to know if I’m being too adamant about this or if there is something wrong with the workplace culture on this.


It’s definitely concerning to hear that the company is not prioritizing user research and testing before shipping products. User research and testing are critical components of the product development process, as they help to ensure that the product is meeting the needs and expectations of the target users.

If you feel strongly about this issue, it might be worth bringing up your concerns with your manager or the CPO directly. You could also suggest incorporating user research and testing into the development process, and providing data and examples to support the importance of these practices.

Ultimately, the decision to prioritize user research and testing is up to the company’s leadership, but by advocating for these best practices, you may be able to positively impact the company’s product development process.


That is surprising indeed. User research is a crucial part of the product development process, as it provides valuable insights into the needs and wants of the target users, which can then be used to inform and improve product design and development. Without user research, there is a risk of developing products that do not meet the needs of the target users, leading to poor adoption and ultimately, failure.

It’s great that you took initiative to conduct user research for the app feature you are working on. Your actions demonstrate the importance of user research and the positive impact it can have on the product development process.

It may be worth sharing your findings with the CPO and other members of the leadership team to highlight the benefits of user research. You could also suggest incorporating user research into the company’s development process more systematically and provide resources or help in setting up a user research program.


It’s great that you are passionate about conducting user research and using the insights gained to inform product and design decisions. In my opinion, user research is a non-negotiable part of the product development process, as it helps ensure that the product being developed meets the needs and expectations of the target users.

As for the company culture, it depends on the company’s goals and values. Some companies prioritize speed and efficiency over thoroughness, while others place a strong emphasis on user-centered design. If the company you work for is prioritizing speed over user research, it may indicate a broader cultural issue, where the importance of user research and user-centered design is not fully understood or valued.

In any case, it’s important to continue advocating for user research and incorporating its insights into your work. By doing so, you can demonstrate the value of user research to the company and help to shift the company’s culture towards a more user-centered approach.


Have you discovered anything that suggests the PMs made the wrong decisions?

Without conducting formal user research, the PMs may already have a decent notion of what is required depending on the product, feature, or consumers.

Sometimes the solutions are obvious, or a thorough user study may only result in expensive, small changes.


It’s true that in some cases, PMs may have a good understanding of the needs and wants of the target users without conducting formal user research. However, it’s important to keep in mind that user research can uncover hidden needs, pain points, and opportunities that might not be immediately obvious. User research can also help validate assumptions and hypotheses and can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the target users and their needs.

While conducting user research can be time-consuming and expensive, the benefits it provides can far outweigh the costs. User research can help inform product and design decisions, increase user satisfaction and adoption, and reduce the risk of developing products that do not meet the needs of the target users.

In cases where the solution may seem obvious or the results of a user study may only result in small changes, it’s still important to validate these assumptions through user research. This can help to ensure that the solution being developed is well-aligned with the needs of the target users and can help to identify any potential roadblocks or challenges that may arise.


If you really know your customers and if you start collecting data and user feedback right away to determine whether your features are providing the value you believe they are, shipping without user research first may be successful depending on who your customers are and their willingness to put up with experimental or half-baked features.


Yes, that’s correct @AmyWalker. If a company has a deep understanding of its target users and has been collecting user data and feedback from the outset, it may be able to make informed decisions and launch products without conducting formal user research. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even in these cases, user research can provide valuable insights and help validate assumptions and hypotheses.

Additionally, the success of shipping without user research depends on several factors, such as the willingness of the target users to put up with experimental or half-baked features, the company’s understanding of its target users, and the nature of the product or feature being developed.

Ultimately, it’s important for a company to strike a balance between speed and thoroughness, and to weigh the benefits and risks of each approach. While conducting user research can slow down the development process, the insights gained from it can help ensure that the product being developed meets the needs of the target users and is more likely to succeed in the long run.


User research is a way of mitigating risk, don’t just do it for the sake of doing it, and only do as much as it’s needed to mitigate enough risk everyone is comfortable with.

I’m assuming you’re in a niche market with little to no competition, or a market where user experience is not a deciding purchasing factor. You might find that providing bad UX is not actually going to lose you any clients or prevent you from getting new ones.


Thanks for the wonderful insights to all of you.

@PriyaVarma, it’s a very competitive, crowded market actually. And we have a spin on the product that is new to market.


Ah! I see, I’d definitely recommend a lot of user research in that case :slight_smile:

Seems like the company “accidentally” stroke it big with that spin, which makes them bias towards random ideas that might pan out. Like spending all your lottery winning on tickets.


One tool to eliminate or minimize risk is UX research. User interviews, usability testing, etc., could be a terrific approach to increase your confidence in what you’re delivering if you’re not sure whether you’re moving in the correct direction. No matter how your peers are shipping, do what you need to do. Your coworkers might just have that assurance or understanding and be at ease with the risks, as many others have already noted.



Yeah, that’s tough. It is good that you are instilling some user research into the product process.

Stepping back a bit, thorough user research is very expensive. The more accurate and complete the learning, the more time spent getting it. And time is what’s usually in the shortest supply for a startup in a competitive market.

But you don’t have to be thorough to be right! And you can help design products in a way that you don’t over-invest in something only to find that it wasn’t all that valuable. It’s possible to have a low-investment, lightweight way to talk to some users to learn stuff and reduce ambiguity. It’s also possible to know when that’s not really necessary and you should “just ship it”.

Also, there’s a pretty good chance there’s a project or two that are very high value, but difficult along several axes:

  • Unclear which pieces of it offer the most value
  • Unclear what the user experience should look like
  • Unclear what a v0.1 even looks like
  • Unclear how engineering can deliver incrementally without rewriting XYZ stuff due to some interesting decisions made in the past
  • Unclear how to think about the GTM strategy

These are the projects where user and UX research should really be focused. High cost for a high reward.

Also, all of these likely changes depending on the kind of company, what stage it’s in, what the market looks like, and how the users are. But I hope that my idle words help.


Thank you so much for all your responses. They were really very helpful and insightful.

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User research should come before direct shipping. User research helps to identify and understand the needs and preferences of your target audience, and to develop a product or service that meets those needs. Skipping this step and directly shipping a product or service without proper research can result in a lack of market fit, low adoption rates, and ultimately, failure. Therefore, it’s important to conduct user research first and use those insights to inform the development and launch of your product or service.

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