Why Ignoring User Experience Research is a Mistake
How much time do you dedicate to your UX research process?
When it comes to approaching any project, there’s no doubt that UX and Product Designers are fully aware of how critical it is to conduct research to put the user experience at the forefront.
But the issue arises when clients or other stakeholders in the project are not on the same page.
One of the first things stakeholders will do for a project is to propose an idea and a solution, concisely put as, “Our mandate is X”. When this happens, the rest of the team is expected to focus all attention towards the proposed solution, rather than actually spending time to fully understand the problem at hand. At this stage, instead of assuming they know what the user wants, it’s more crucial to ask questions like:
Why are we doing this?
What is the root problem?
The design process we follow may be unclear to the client, but as UX and Product Designers, there are certain things we can do to share our knowledge and perspective with others so they can better understand the value of UX research conducted at the beginning of a project.
The Consequences of Insufficient UX Research
Insufficient UX research is where the quality of a project is compromised.
No matter how much time you spend on creating great visuals, if your users are going to struggle with using your designs, instead of solving your users’ problems, you’re going to end up creating new ones:
Increasing the learning curve for users
Ignoring the user experience research means you’re making no effort to truly understand your users or even the scope of work. Without proper UX research, it’s difficult to familiarize yourself with what your target audience struggles with. You’re more likely to end up increasing the learning curve for your users and driving them away.
Losing key insights from early adopters
A lack of UX design research can impair the ability to find early adopters. Early adopters are a vital part of the project as they can lend a lot of critical insights about the usability of a feature and provide you with an accurate picture of the pain points — and gain points — of your target customer.
Difficulty in identifying opportunity
Another element most clients/stakeholders don’t take into consideration when allocating time and resources to UX research is that of opportunity. Identifying and evaluating your competitors helps UX teams understand what already exists in the market and where there is space for improvement and innovation. Without such competitor insights, you could risk losing out on opportunities to enhance your business strategy and have an edge in the market.
The Value of Investing in the UX Research Process
The UX research process can include both quantitative and qualitative UX research methods that can take up several forms, like:
- Card sorting,
- Focus groups,
- Competitive analysis, etc.
These are all useful UX research tools that help shape the strategy and define the goal(s) of a project. Having the correct data accessible to the team will pave the way for making solid decisions and ensuring you are focused on the appropriate users for your design.
Without this user experience research, your team is in danger of leaping to assumptions instead of solving actual problems for the target users. You could also be putting yourself at risk of scope creep when discoveries arise later down the road.
Knowing all the benefits of investing in UX design research, stakeholders may still lack the design maturity needed to carve out the required time and resources for the UX research process. This is where you should start thinking about controlling the risks.
Risk Control With Limited Resources For UX Research
All too often, UX research gets sacrificed due to time or budget.
That being said, if you find yourself in such a situation, there are certain methods you can employ to mitigate the risks that come with not allocating enough resources for user experience research:
Using available data
Take whatever data you do have available. Analyze what you have and make your best guesses.
Post-launch plan to track metrics
If you can’t validate your hypotheses now, build a post-launch plan so you can test and track metrics.
Build proto-personas based on your best guesses to get a shared understanding of what you do know about your users. It will help identify critical tasks and create a focused project scope.
Mini-interviews with small groups
Conduct mini-interviews on the down low, if possible. This is an informal method to test ideas and could be done within 10 minutes among a small group of users (around 10 people).
While these methods may have some drawbacks, they’re still quite helpful in terms of providing a fair amount of guidance for your project if you’re in a pinch.
Educating Clients and Stakeholders on the Value of UX Research
For many organizations, there might be a lot of difficulty in trying to change or update their process. At the same time, there might be others who believe they’re already operating well. Some might even prefer sticking to the practices they’re accustomed to, relying on analytics tools to retrieve data.
Whichever kind of situation you’re in, there’s no doubt that any kind of change will be faced with some degree of concern and resistance. But, whether as a UX or product designer, you can go the extra mile to demonstrate to your client or stakeholder how research is an integral part of the process — one which serves as a means to understand the users’ problems and goals.
UX research also helps define the scope of work so that teams are able to plan their MVP and the proceeding phases. Cutting UX research tools and techniques out of the project can have a detrimental impact on the quality of the final product.
Investing in user experience research equips you better to validate your hypotheses and ideas so you may better understand your users’ needs.
It’s essential to convey to stakeholders how assumptions about the users are causing more harm than good to their overall UX design process. The current bias found in most organizations needs to be put aside: business goals are NOT the same as user goals, and managers, project owners, and designers are NOT the end users. The end users are the people outside of your organization who will use the product — your actual customers.
So what you need to ask yourself is: Are you building the right product for your user?
Without knowing who your user is, you will fail to answer this question. Without knowing what works and what doesn’t, you’ll fail to build the right product.
Fortunately, user experience research is a solution that gives us not statistics but valuable and vital insights that will prevent you from compromising on the quality of your product.
And while you won’t see this shift to more investment into UX research happening overnight, leading the discussion on the benefits of UX research can surely be a starting point for any project.
What is the role of a UX researcher?
A UX researcher’s role is to study and find key insights about target users, like user behaviours, wants and needs, challenges, and motivations. Using both quantitative and qualitative UX research methods, a UX researcher will thoroughly research what users expect from products, services, applications, and websites and convey these insights to UX designers so they can design experiences that are more user-friendly.
Why is UX research important?
UX research is an integral part of the UX design process as it helps give a direction to your strategy as well as better define the goal(s) of a project that is more aligned with the users’ wants and expectations. UX design research is a way to ensure that your designs aren’t just based on your assumptions about what the user wants but accurate insights about what the users’ actual problems and goals are.
What does the UX research process include?
The UX research process includes both quantitative and qualitative UX methods and various UX research tools to study the users and be able to extract the required insights about their behaviours, wants, needs, challenges, and expectations.
What is the value of UX research?
The value of UX research to the overall UX design process is most significant when it comes to addressing vital questions about the project, like what the goals are, what is the true challenge for users that we are trying to solve, and what users expect from the solution, etc. User experience research helps UX teams design solutions that are well-aligned with the actual situation of the end user rather than simply relying on assumptions about the users.