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Product insights: where to look and how spot them
Insights series

Product insights: where to look and how spot them

Can teams ensure that they’re set up to identify and leverage insights from different sources? How can we ensure that we’re best positioned to spot the next strategy defining insight?

Dan Robins
March 4, 2022

In a previous post, we explored how to structure product insights for maximum impact. Next, we take a look at where these critical product insights actually come from, and if there’s anything we can do to position ourselves to discover more of them. 

Before we break down the various sources that insights can be obtained, it’s important to understand that insights can come from thousands of different data sources, many of which you’re likely already collecting. They can come from anyone or anywhere; a conversation on Slack, in-app analytics, a user interview, or an external industry playbook. 

According to the Founder of SVPG, Marty Cagan, “there are four consistently effective and valuable sources of insights":

1. Quantitative Insights
2. Qualitative Insights
3. Technology Insights
4. Industry Insights”

Let’s break these down. 

Quantitative Insights

Quantitative insights are obtained through the collection and analysis of numerical data. They allow us to identify patterns, make predictions, and generalise findings around a certain topic. Data is collected either indirectly (e.g. through a tool that automatically records it such as Google Analytics), or manually (by measuring and analysing UX metrics).

Quantitative insights help to prioritise solutions, validate ideas, and answer research questions such as ‘what’, ‘where’, or ‘when’.

As Cagan puts it: “It’s normal today for product teams to be running live-data tests on a near-constant basis. You learn something on every test, but every once in a while, you learn something truly important, a potentially valuable insight.”

Qualitative insights

Qualitative insights are obtained through the direct observation and study of participants in your research. Whilst qualitative data is not “statistically significant”, it aims to yield an understanding of the motivations, thoughts, and attitudes of people. Therefore this type of insight is key to uncovering the ‘why’ behind actions and develop a deep understanding of a topic or problem.

The user research field generally breaks down qualitative insights into two categories; evaluative and generative. Generative research helps you define the problem you’d like to design a solution for. Evaluative research helps you analyse an existing design (in prototype, final, or some other form).


Technology insights

Technology is in a constant state of change, and can often both solve and create new challenges. With this, comes insight. Occasionally a technology comes along that unblocks you from a particularly tricky challenge, inspires new solutions, and allows you to make giant leaps forward as a business. Technology insights (good and bad) should be communicated outside of engineering teams and proactively distributed - after all, without ever changing technology, product innovation quickly becomes flat and stagnant. 


Industry insights 

Whilst the temptation is often to start from scratch, or ‘look inward’, the industry at large is a great source of insight. There is a lot to learn from peers outside of our organisation:

- Industry playbooks, commissioned whitepapers, and academic studies offer an abundance of high quality insights.

- Blogs (both independent by practitioners, as well as company managed) offer guidance alongside a multitude of different perspectives.

- Communities - from Slack to Reddit, you’ll find a huge source of pre-curated insights, as well as a platform to engage, ask questions, and discuss with peers.

- Design patterns - why reinvent the wheel when pre-validated insights around user behaviour and expectations already exist. After all, Jakob’s law states that users prefer your site to work the same way as the other sites they already use and know.


Gathering one type of insight in silo can only get you so far. Drawing upon a combination of quantitative, qualitative, technology, and industry insights, means we not only collect many more data points, but we also develop a much more balanced view on which to make strategic decisions.

Spotting product insights

Whilst many experienced product leaders almost develop a sixth sense when it comes to discovering powerful, strategy defining insights, there are certainly things you can do to help train your eye. Whether you’re VP of Product, or a Junior Product Designer, there are some good habits that you can develop to position yourself to discover more breakthrough insights for your team:

Understand the strategic landscape

Make sure that you are familiar with your organisation’s strategic direction. If you’re not aware of your organisation’s objectives, how can you discover meaningful insights that will help drive towards achieving these goals?

Be open minded

Again, insights can come from anywhere or anyone, and at any time. Having somewhere to readily capture new insights is always helpful!

Do your homework
As Cagan puts it, “you might have an epiphany in the shower, but that’s only after you’ve spent hours studying your data, your customers, the enabling technologies, and your industry.” It’s easy to hope that the next big discovery will appear right in front of you, being prepared will take you so much further. 

Look for wider patterns

Often the most powerful strategic insights emerge from multiple sources, including existing insights. An industry insight might lead you to investigate the technology in use on your product. When combined with a qualitative insight obtained through a diary study, this could lead to a monumental, strategy defining discovery. It’s why it’s important to build and have access to centralised insights repositories.


Conclusion 

Often the most powerful insights draw upon multiple different sources whilst building upon existing knowledge. 

Consolidating product insights from a range of different sources is a trait of high maturity product teams, and is a critical step towards achieving user research excellence. By gathering insights from a combination of sources, we collect more data points and develop more balanced perspectives.

In seeking strategy defining insights, preparation is key. If you want to ensure that you and your team are set up to discover actionable insights amongst the sea of data you’re likely collecting, then you need to be set up to do so. Having an understanding of the strategic landscape you’re working in, whilst also considering wider patterns in your data are examples of ways in which you can set yourself up to identify a powerful insight when you see one. 

It’s important to remember that discovering strategy defining insights is only as powerful as your ability to make use of them. Insights locked in people’s heads, in multiple different analysis tools, or buried in reports, are far less likely to guide strategic decisions. It’s why many teams are building multi-disciplined, multi-sourced insights repositories - to leverage their collective knowledge.


References and further reading 

The discovery phase

Jakob’s Law

Generative vs. evaluation research: what’s the difference and why do we need each?

Product Strategy – Insights

Quantitative vs. Qualitative UX Research Methods

You can learn more about the process today’s best product organisations are following to level up their research operations by downloading a free copy of our User research is broken: A guide on how to level up your research operations playbook, available here.


About Dualo

Dualo is an insights hub used by digital product teams to get more repeatable value from their user research and insights, so that stakeholders can make informed and timely decisions across the organisation. If you're interested in learning more, please request a demo and a member of our team will be in touch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dan Robins

I’m a design, UX & strategy lead with a passion for storytelling. Proud member of Dualo’s founding product trio. Always seeking new inspiration.

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