Not doing UX Research is Product Suicide

As part of our work at Pixel Tie, we frequently come across clients who are looking for User Experience(UX) consultancy. This may include designing a website, working on a mobile or web application User Interface(UI) but it too rarely includes the UX Research part which is extremely essential to the UX process.

Does the issue stem from the fact that these clients are not familiar with the industry and are certainly mistaking UI (user interface) with UX (user experience)? Quite likely. Is it something we can fix easily? I doubt it, but we will contribute to the cause with this attempt to explain why UX research is so important for you — product owners.

Source: UX Process by UX Mastery

Stop Using Excuses and Focus on the Outcome

When we address the importance of research as part of our UX process to clients, we often receive the same kind of feedback:

  • We have a tight timeline or limited budget and we prefer to skip this step to focus on design;
  • We don’t see the value of research;
  • We don’t need research, we know what people want (some kind of messiahs!)

Even if the first answer seems fair, be aware that not investing in research will cost you far more than if you did. One of the most common mistakes that people make when thinking of a product idea is solving a problem that simply doesn’t exist or that isn’t bad enough for people to bother fixing it.

If you assume the wrong pain points that your users are facing and make inappropriate changes and adjustments, you’re simply going to be out of business!

So if you are working on a mobile app, web app or website and as long as you are looking to make your product useful to your users, make no mistake: you simply cannot afford to not do research for your product.

No UX Research = Waste of Time, Effort, and Cost

When you jump directly into production without making any research, it simply means that you consider your actual knowledge as true fact rather than assumptions that need to be validated.
 You may, however, find that after you have shipped your product and when real users started to use it, concerns and problems might start to flow due to multiple factors such as:

  • Your initial assumptions about the user were completely or partially wrong;
  • Your final product is not user-friendly;
  • Your product features are confusing for the end user;
  • Your product has great features that no one uses or want;

And the consequences of not having done research to validate these points earlier will translate to a waste of development time, effort, cost, a high customer support bill and ultimately less revenue.

Let’s say you have developed a mobile app for your fintech product. Because you didn’t see the need for user-testing before development, you now face a situation where you forgot to add a “confirmation” screen for transactions. Some of your customers end up transferring $1,000 instead of $100 to their telecommunications provider and got mad about it. As your development cycle gets farther along, major changes like this one will become more and more expensive to implement. On top of that, you’ll have to grapple with increased customer support, not to mention the irreparable damage to your reputation.

In other words, you could have saved a huge amount of time and money by getting this screen right the first time!

Validate your Hypothesis!

“I think perhaps the number one skill is understanding how to check your biases at the front door.” — Steve Fadden, Director of Analytics UX Research at Salesforce

Sorry to disappoint you, but even if you are the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, you DO NOT represent your target audience even if you are a user of the product. The only way you will find your answer is somewhere in the real world outside, and your customers can help you find it.

Does my product really solve the identified problem for my specific market?

UX research focuses on understanding the user behaviour, needs, experience, and motivations. It allows you to start the production phase with a clear insight about the end user, the problems that need to be addressed, and ensures that the final solution is usable and meet the user needs and expectations.

This is why it is essential to validate your ideas before starting to build or revamp your product.

Different Types of Research for Different Purposes

There are many types of research methods out there and as many ways to collect information about your users: focus group, click tests, A/B Testing, user interviews, surveys…

So how do you know which kind of research to conduct, and when or how to get the right sort of information from your target users?

For now, you just need to know that there are 2 main methods with different objectives.

Quantitative Research is used to quantify a problem. A simple example will be A/B Testing: You upload 2 forms online with the same end goal but with a different layout and you redirect 50% of your audience to the first one and 50% to the second one. By doing that, you’d have empirical data on which layout attracts more users to do a certain action so that you can take note of which works better.

Qualitative Research is used to gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations. For this one, let’s use Usability Testing as an example:
 Same project but this time you observe a group of people testing your form number 1 and try to identify any patterns in their behaviour… Then you realise that this form has a bad conversion rate because your users simply can’t validate it. Indeed, you have forgotten the “mandatory” icon next to the email address so each time they click on “Submit” without giving their email away, they can’t see what went wrong and just leave the page.

“Quantitative research tells you WHAT your problem is. Qualitative research tells you WHY you have that problem.” — Laura Klein

A common argument for not conducting user research is that they can be costly. This is not true and I will list a couple of low-cost methods to put you on the right path:

  • Ethnographic Studies: Go out and observe your potential users in their environment to understand the problems they are facing and gain knowledge to support design decisions later on.
  • Competitor Testing: Test your competitor’s product and learn from their mistakes to avoid doing the same ones.
  • Five-second tests: Optimise the clarity of your designs by measuring their first impressions on users.
  • Simple Preference Testing: Choose between design variations by asking users which one they prefer.
  • Guerilla User Tests: Offer to buy somebody a coffee if they spend 10 minutes looking at your product. See how your users are struggling to understand what they’re supposed to be doing.

Just Do It

Research does not consist of asking your target what they want and developing the corresponding application. On the other hand, conducting research before design will allow you to understand what your product must be, how people will react to it and it simply works.

Many managers see UX research as an overall phase that adds cost, time, and effort to the project. While it might be true on the short-term, the consequences of not applying UX research will be far more disastrous for your product and business success on the long-term.

That is the simple truth — if you’re doing the right sort of research at the right time, you will end up saving time and money, as well as ensuring you stay on the right path of product development.

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Originally published at www.pixeltie.com.sg on June 20, 2017.