Product Discovery Techniques for Product Teams to Develop Valuable Products

Product Discovery Techniques for Product Teams to Develop Valuable Products cover

What product discovery techniques can product managers use to build products that deliver value for their customers?

This is the main question we answer in the article. So if you want to learn how to better understand your customers’ needs, pain points, and desires and ideate solutions that will satisfy them while driving growth for your business, you’re in the right place.

Let’s get right to it!


  • Product discovery comes before the product delivery process and its aim is to find and validate opportunities and solutions that will enhance product value and drive business goals.
  • Product discovery enables teams to achieve and maintain the product-market fit and removes bias from the product management process.
  • Initial product discovery takes place before the product launch and leads to the creation of the MVP. Once it’s out, it turns into a continuous discovery process, the role of which is to look for ways to add value to the product.
  • There are two key aspects of product discovery. First, you look for opportunities to grow the product. These could be user problems or needs. Next, you look for solutions to these problems.
  • Product analytics and session recordings enable you to analyze user behavior in the product and find areas where they encounter barriers or unnecessary friction.
  • Customer interviews and user feedback surveys are great product discovery techniques for collecting qualitative data. They are necessary to understand the ‘why’ behind user behavior.
  • Empathy maps are tools for recording data about what users say, think, do, and feel. They help teams look at problems from users’ perspectives.
  • Opportunity Solution Trees are visual ideation tools. They help you link solutions with opportunities and desired outcomes.
  • There are a number of prioritization frameworks that you can use to prioritize the features that deliver the most value, for example, Cost of Delay or Kano.
  • Prototypes, including fake door tests, are effective product discovery tools for idea validation.
  • Instead of trying to develop a complete product before the launch, get your MVP out as quickly as possible and improve it based on user input.
  • Likewise, don’t try to develop a full-blown version of your features. Start with minimum viable features and iterate on them once you have user feedback.
  • With Userpilot, you can track product usage, collect user feedback in-app and recruit beta testers with in-app messages. Want to see how? Book the demo!

What is product discovery?

Product discovery is the stage in the product management process during which the team decides what to build.

Specifically, it focuses on identifying problems in users’ lives that are significant enough that they are ready to pay for a solution.

Once the team finds such a problem, they continue product discovery by looking for solutions that would address the problems effectively and delight the customer.

Why is product discovery important?

Product discovery helps product managers and their teams to achieve product-market fit. In other words, they are more likely to build successful products that deliver value to customers and fill a genuine gap in the market.

As product discovery involves experimentation to validate ideas, it also helps to remove bias from the development process. It forces us to look at the problem from our users’ perspectives.

Product discovery helps teams achieve product-market fit.

Initial product discovery vs continuous product discovery

Initial product discovery takes place early on in the product development process when the team is searching for problems to solve and develops early solutions. This normally leads to the development of the minimum viable product (MVP).

However, the launch of the product doesn’t mean the end of the discovery process. In fact, it’s just the beginning.

That’s because the MVP is normally far from complete and so further discovery is necessary to inform further iterations that are necessary to iron out all the kinks.

This is essential to keep up with the changes in customers’ needs and the competitive landscape. That’s what we call continuous discovery.

Continuous product discovery.

What is the product discovery process?

There are various product discovery frameworks around, like design thinking, Jobs To Be Done, or RAT. Whichever of them you choose, the product discovery process consists of two main stages.

Understanding the problem and user needs

The first part of the process is all about identifying problems to solve. We call them opportunities because they’re not limited to pain points. They could be user needs or desires.

To achieve this, you need to carry out market and customer research to find unsatisfied user needs.

While searching for opportunities, you need to make sure they are aligned with the product strategy and the business model.

Brainstorming solutions

The second part focuses on finding solutions to the opportunities identified previously.

This includes idea generation and prioritization based on their potential to solve the problem and drive product goals.

It’s essential to validate ideas at this stage through prototyping and testing and ensure that they really address the customer pain points before we invest in their development.

Product discovery techniques for understanding customer needs

Teams usually employ a mix of research techniques and tools to uncover and validate opportunities.

Use product analytics to understand user behavior

Product analytics enable you to gain insights into users’ engagement with the product and spot patterns in their behavior.

For example, you can easily track how users progress toward activation, how long it takes them to complete each of the steps, and where they drop off. In this way, you can single out those parts of the product that need improvement.

Product discovery techniques: product analytics
Track in-app engagement with Userpilot. Get the demo now!

Use user session recordings to uncover friction points

Session recordings enable you to get an even more granular picture of user engagement with your product UI.

With software like Hotjar, you can record and view later every single thing they do in the product. And all the things they don’t.

In this way, you can find out where they encounter friction.

Conduct customer interviews to understand user needs

Product analytics is great for identifying patterns in user behavior but not so good at explaining them. For that, you need qualitative data, and interviews are the tool for the job.

Why are interviews so effective?

In short, a direct chat allows you to get a better idea of how the user is feeling about the product. What’s more, you are free to adjust the questions to follow up on themes that emerge.

This, however, doesn’t mean you can just rock up and improvise. To get actionable insights, you need to go into the interviews well-prepared and with a clear purpose.

Product discovery techniques: user interviews
Be prepared when interviewing users.

Collect customer feedback through in-app surveys

In-app surveys are less time-consuming than interviews and they can still provide valuable insights into user behavior. That’s partly because you can use them to target specific user segments and collect feedback at scale.

And you can use them to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. While the former kind is great for tracking trends and user segmentation, the latter allows you to understand why users behave in particular ways.

You can trigger your surveys contextually, for example when users complete an event. Or you can add a widget to your dashboard and collect passive user feedback and feature requests.

Product discovery techniques: in-app feedback surveys
Slack uses in-app surveys to collect feedback.

Create empathy maps for a deeper understanding of user needs

Empathy maps are a powerful tool for collating all the data and insights that you collect. They help teams empathize with users and better understand their problems.

How do you build empathy maps?

Start by choosing a user persona. Next, collect all the information you have about the user type and organize it into four categories. Record what the user says, does, thinks, and feels.

Creating comprehensive empathy maps requires cross-functional collaboration. Colleagues from other teams may be able to offer unique insights that the development team would never be able to unearth.

Product discovery techniques: empathy map. Source:
Create empathy maps to better understand users (source:

Product discovery techniques for brainstorming and testing solutions

Now that we have an idea of how you can collect the necessary data to identify opportunities, let’s look at some product discovery methods that can help a product manager to generate and validate ideas for solutions.

Use the opportunity solution tree framework to prioritize ideas

The opportunity solution tree (OST) is an excellent tool for product discovery that helps teams ensure that their solutions are in line with the problems they address and their business goals.

The tree consists of 4 layers.

At the top, we have the desired outcome. That’s the product or business goal you want to achieve. This could be improving customer satisfaction or boosting retention.

Next, come the opportunities. These are the problems you can solve for your customers to achieve the desired outcome.

Linked to the opportunities are the solutions, and each of them has a set of experiments you will use to validate them and test their effectiveness.

Product discovery techniques: opportunity solution tree. Source: Product Talk
Use the opportunity solution tree to prioritize ideas (source: Product Talk).

Prioritize feature requests that bring the most value

Feature requests are extremely valuable because they can signal issues that you were not aware of. For example, you may have the feature but your users may simply not be able to find it.

Before you accommodate a request, make sure there’s no better way to solve the customer’s problem. By copying what competitors offer you will only build a parity product that won’t give you the edge.

And as you can’t satisfy all user requests, use a prioritization framework like Cost of Delay or Kano to pick the features that will drive the most value.

Use prototypes to test ideas before building

Product prototypes are an essential part of the product discovery process at the ideation stage.

That’s because they allow you to validate your ideas before you spend any money and time on their development. This is essential not only for your product’s success but also for long-term survival. You can’t waste money on features that nobody wants.

Start early with low-fidelity prototypes that you can create with prototyping tools like Adobe XD. If that works, build a higher-fidelity version. Ultimately, you want to run tests with almost full functional prototypes.

Use fake door testing to validate new ideas

Fake door testing is a kind of low-fidelity prototype test.

It involves tricking users into believing that a feature exists and tracking their engagement to gauge their interest levels.

You start by adding the feature being testing to your dashboard or UI and driving engagement with a tooltip, like the one below. If you don’t have a product, you can build a simple landing page and attract traffic with paid ads.

Then you sit back and watch how many users click on it. If enough, it’s definitely worth exploring further. If not, bin it quickly and start over again with another idea.

Product discovery techniques: fake door test
Example of how a tooltip (built with Userpilot) can be used for a fake door test.

Create minimum viable products to validate product ideas

The minimum viable product, or MVP for short, is a well-known concept that allows teams to validate product ideas and find ways to further develop them.

The idea is fairly simple. To build a good product, you need customer participation.

So instead of building the product with all its bells and whistles, secretly, in the confines of your company HQ (or garage), create its basic version with simple functionality and launch.

At this point, you can start collecting user feedback and usage data to inform its further development.

Test minimum viable features before development and launch

Having run multiple fake door and prototype tests, you may be so confident in your feature that you can’t wait to build it and show it off to the world. Hold your horses, though.

The fact that your prototype test results were optimistic doesn’t mean that it will actually work in real life.

So just like with the MVP, start small. Build a minimum viable feature and launch it. Then collect user feedback, watch its adoption, and only when there’s a positive response, start working on jazzing it up.

You don’t have to roll it out for all your users at once. A soft launch will do the job just fine. If you have a product in place, you can easily reach out to existing users and invite them to take part in the beta test.

Product discovery techniques: beta testing
Example of a template to invite beta testers.

How Userpilot can help you with product discovery?

Userpilot is a product adoption platform that allows product teams to collect user feedback in-app, analyze user behavior data and drive engagement with in-app messages and guidance.

Create in-app surveys to collect customer feedback

Creating in-app surveys with Userpilot is dead easy and doesn’t require any coding skills.

You can then target specific user segments. For example, you could use it to collect feedback from users who should have certain behavior patterns.

Or if you’ve just launched a minimum viable feature, you can trigger a survey contextually immediately when they’ve engaged with the feature to collect real-time feedback.

In-app survey builder in Userpilot
In-app survey builder in Userpilot.

Observe product usage through feature tagging

Feature tagging allows you to collect data about user engagement with different parts of your UI. In Userpilot, you can track not only clicks but also form fills and hovers.

You can then filter the results by user segment to find out which feature drive value for different user groups and prioritize their development.

Feature tagging in Userpilot
Feature tagging in Userpilot.

Use different UX patterns and segmentation to recruit testers

Userpilot also has everything that you need to recruit test participants.

First, you can use product analytics and segmentation to choose users with specific characteristics.

For example, if you’re testing improvements to existing functionality, your power users are a safe bet. If, on the other hand, you’re building a new feature, you want to approach users from other categories to get a representative sample of your user base.

Next, you can use UX patterns like modals or banners to invite the users to take part in your beta or usability tests.

Advanced segmentation in Userpilot
Advanced segmentation in Userpilot.


Developing new products involves a fair bit of risk. However, with appropriate product discovery techniques and tools, product teams can significantly reduce it.

That’s because they are able to effectively identify viable problems to solve for their customers and validate solution ideas before committing any substantial resources to their development.

If you want to see how Userpilot can help you with your product discovery, book the demo!

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