Industrial Design Startup

UX research at different stages of the product development lifecycle


Industrial Design Startup

UX research throughout the entire product development lifecycle

Project Background

Designed For

  • Designed for an industrial design startup aiming to discover new markets and create physical ceramics products as well as frictionless user experiences.

My role

  • This project was by far the most comprehensive user research project that I’ve ever undertaken. I conducted user research and customer discovery projects during each stage of the product development life cycle.
  • As a co-founder of a small business, I made creating an exceptional user experience our primary objective. We tried to keep our users in mind and optimize our processes for providing the greatest customer value.

My Constraints

  • Expertise constraints: Our founding team had expertise and extensive knowledge in ceramics production and industrial design. Based on this fact, we decided to primarily focus on ceramics products.
  • Budget constraints: Limited financial resources and limited opportunities for hiring expert researchers.
  • Conflicting priorities: Competing priorities within the business, as we are also responsible for other operational aspects.


  • Competitive Analysis
  • Personas
  • Affinity Diagramms (coupled with Contextual Inquiry)
  • Service Design Blueprints
  • Customer Journey Maps

Research Overview

Supporting each stage of the product development lifecycle

Research Process Summary →

We conducted numerous smaller research projects spanning the entire product development lifecycle, supporting the product team with user insights and actionable suggestions.

Here is an overview of our research initiatives at different stages of the journey.

Exploration / Brainstorm / Ideation / Discovery Phase

  • Answering the questions: “What should we build?” “What are the user’s problems?” “How can we solve those problems?”
  • Identifying of unmet user needs and pain points, leading to the development of physical products.
  • Gaining insight into emerging trends, markets and changes in consumer behaviour.

Define / Validation Phase

  • Using market research tools and methods to test the viability of an idea. Comparing the size and potential of different target markets.

Design / Development Phase

  • Answering the question: “How should we build it?”
  • Prototyping: Informing the product team how the product should be built, guiding the development of early concepts and prototypes, allowing for iterative improvements.
  • Service design efforts: building user flows and creating frictionless user journeys, optimizing touchpoints for ease of use.
  • Manufacturing and Production: Providing guidance on selecting manufacturing methods and materials, packaging and presentation that align with user expectations.

Testing Phase

  • Identification of usability issues that can be addressed before production. User feedback on aesthetics, ergonomics, and ease of use.
  • Supporting the product team with insights into potential quality control concerns and ways to address them.

Post-Launch Research

  • Product validation and user feedback: Successfully validating that the product is meeting user needs through established metrics. User feedback on the final product’s performance and satisfaction levels.
  • Marketing/Sales: Providing data on user segments and target audiences for effective marketing strategies. Providing insights into how users perceive and connect with the product and our brand.

Research Process

Generative Research

EXPLORATION / BRAINSTORM / IDEATION / DISCOVERY PHASE of the product development lifecycle


After establishing our small ceramics workshop, we began experimenting with various product categories. After the first few months, we noticed that the majority of our largest orders were coming from young couples who were planning their weddings. At this juncture, we believed that this might be worth further exploration. As a result, we decided to initiate a comprehensive user research project to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon.

We conducted exploratory foundational research during the initial phase of the product development lifecycle. Our primary aim was to understand and prioritize user needs before designing a solution. We also sought to gain an understanding of the wedding industry before allocating significant resources to the development of our product.

Data Gathering

Competitive Audit

I’ve identified and examined three competitors in the realm of crafting hand-made accessories for wedding ceremonies. In addition to identifying their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, I’ve also placed particular emphasis on the user experience provided by their products and services.

Semi-structured User Interviews

I conducted 11 in-depth user interviews with young couples who were currently in the final stages of planning their weddings, having already sorted out the majority of the practical details. User interviews are particularly well-suited for understanding the context and observing the wedding planning process from the perspective of the young couple.

Contextual Inquiry and Affinity Diagramming

I conducted contextual inquiries by attending various wedding events, with a specific focus on the external environment, decorations, and artifacts utilized by young couples during their wedding ceremonies. My goal was to gain insight into what people perceive as “appropriate decoration” at different types of weddings.


Our target users are couples who place a significant emphasis on the aesthetics and design of their wedding. Ideally, they actively participate in the wedding planning process, with a particular focus on choosing the design elements and accessories for their special day.

Considering the diversity among individuals preparing to get married, I have developed four distinct personas that encompass the wide-ranging user base of engaged couples.

As most decisions were made through consensus, it made more sense for my personas to depict couples rather than individuals.

Data Synthesis

  • Exploration and ideation can happen simultaneously
  • Filtering out bad ideas was more difficult than I expected
  • Cross-functional teams provide higher quality input than solo researchers
  • 5-6 in-dept interviews can yield most of the insights

Research Impact

  • Strategic impact: Product strategy pivot, based on user feedback.
  • Product Impact: Moving from having a few vague product ideas to systematically generating, selecting, and validating ideas with real users.

My Learnings

  • Exploration and ideation can happen simultaneously
  • Filtering out bad ideas was more difficult than I expected
  • Cross-functional teams provide higher quality input than solo researchers
  • 5-6 in-dept interviews can yield most of the insights.

Design Research

DESIGN PHASE  of the product development lifecycle

At this stage of the product development lifecycle, our primary aim was to figure out the best way of building our products, keeping the user experience in mind. The goal of design research was to inform the product team how the product should be built, supporting iterative design with actionable user insights.

Data Gathering

Wizard of Oz

Employing the Wizard of Oz method, we hired an independent contractor to assist in creating and delivering our products. Despite being financially unsustainable in the long-run, this approach allowed us to simulate product experiences, observing user reactions firsthand without the full implementation. Although financially challenging, this experiment provided invaluable insights into user behavior, guiding subsequent design iterations towards a more user-centric approach and significantly enhancing our understanding of user needs.


We joined weddings to observe how our users use our products in real situations. Being part of the actual ceremony, allowed us to capture high-level feedback, observing user engagement and behaviour first-hand. By immersing ourselves in these settings, we gained practical insights, enabling us to refine our products based on real user behaviors observed during weddings. Incorporating user feedback, we significantly reduced the weight of the actual product and modified product attributes, including color, shape, and ergonomics.”

A/B Testing for Social Media Engagement

  • While building our products, we continuously experimented with multiple versions of the product, offerings and messaging.
  • We started out our journey, by offering more than 100 different design options. However, we continuously experimented with different versions of design, eliminating options based on which version performed better.
  • Through the integration of A/B testing into our daily decision-making processes, we’ve made product development a data-driven endeavor.
  • My insight: This approach has revealed that ornamental shapes exhibit significantly superior performance compared to other design types.

Data Synthesis / Most Crucial Findings

Main industry trends:

  • Blending tradition and modern aesthetics
  • Sustainable materials
  • Extreme customization


  • We identified industry best practices and set our quality standards accordingly.
  • Our products have to handle microwave ovens, dishwashers, and stay tough enough to look brand new for a solid five years, no matter what.

Product attributes:

  • Through iterative product design, we unearthed user preferences and adjusted product attributes accordingly in iterative cycles. We refined materials, colour schemes, ergonomics, design elements, and packaging repeatedly, guided by continuous user feedback.


  • Drawing from user feedback, we provided the marketing team with pricing and positioning recommendations. Our findings revealed that users display a willingness to pay premium prices for extensively customizable products.
  • Moreover, users perceive our offerings as more valuable when they actively participate in the customization process, contributing to the creation of the product from inception to completion.

Research Impact

Stakeholder collaboration impact:

  • Fostered collaboration between product team and user research functions leading to an enhanced communication of valuable user insights across various functions within the organization.

Strategic impact:

  • Establishing a culture of experimentation by making sure design decisions are always backed by user insights, rather than relying on product team hypothesises as the primary source of truth.

Product impact:

  • Shaping product design, materials, and packaging based on real user feedback

My Learnings

User testing:

  • When research findings point in opposite directions, it’s considered a best practice to differentiate between market segments and cluster research findings based on distinct personas and market segments.

Details, details, details…

  • users often say what they think the researcher wants to hear. To find relevant details

Regularly share findings:

  • Communicate real-time across the company to avoid building features users don’t find valuable. Countless working hours are wasted by building product that users don’t find valuable.

Speed matters:

  • A quick and dirty test can be better than a polished and spotless one.

Post-Launch Research


LAUNCH PHASE of the product development lifecycle

At this stage of the product development lifecycle, our primary aim was to successfully validate that the product is meeting user needs.

Data Synthesis

Validation of Product Performance

  • Comparison of post-launch performance metrics against pre-launch expectations.

User satisfaction

  • Creating a report, containing actionable recommendations for product and customer success team

Marketing and sales recommendations

  • Developing positioning statements to differentiate product offerings

User needs visualisation

  • Creating a dashboard, visualising 4 clusters of user motivations – (based on 4 personas)

Research Impact

Confirmation of product success

  • Gathering evidence of whether the product is meeting user needs and expectations.

Product impact

  • Identification of areas for refinement or enhancement based on user feedback

Strategic impact

  • Establishing a culture of experimentation.
  • Creating and maintaining channels of continuous feedback between users and product team.

My Learnings

Data-driven product decisions:

  • Iterative adjustments to the product need to be based on real-world user data, not only product team intuition.

Qual & Quant:

  • Learning to balance quantitative data with qualitative insights for a holistic understanding of the user experience.

Closing the loop:

  • Post-launch research often feels like generative research; sometimes it brings us back to the exploration phase