Why do user research? To build products people love.

Yana Carstens
Mar 28, 2018 · 6 min read

Too many companies realize why they should do user research too late, when they’ve already missed out on opportunities to make product development more effective, deliver high-impact launches and capture market share.

At the start of a project, it’s easy to fall back on myths: That user research is expensive, time consuming, or simply a waste, because people believe they know enough already. In each case the opposite is true. Kicking off a project with a strong user research process gives you the foundation for everything else you build. And there’s plenty of proof to show the importance of user research, from the successes of our own clients like Tyson, Participate and Tend to research from firms like Forrester.

“‘Does it better’ will always beat ‘did it first.’”
— Aaron Levie, CEO at Box

To help mid-sized business and startups get the most value out of user research in the shortest amount of time, we’ve developed a guide for how to conduct user research in a one-week sprint. Even then, some people are hesitant. So before we get into user research methods, we’ll start with the most important question: why user research matters.

What is user research, and why does it matter?

UX research can be described as a series of methods, questions and techniques designed to learn as much as possible about the users, so their needs and desires inform the products you build. Interviews, observations and A/B testing are some of our favorite user research methods, but there are plenty of other methodologies to get both quantitative and qualitative insights.

“Empathy is at the heart of design. Without the understanding of what others see, feel and experience, design is a pointless task.”
— Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO

People want to feel understood. Brands can provide that by delivering products that meet their users’ needs at a deep level. User research to support design thinking is the key.

Why do user research before product design and development?

Overwhelmingly, the team learns that users dislike the changes, feeling they put too much emphasis on the holiday. A large number of users even drop Spotify altogether, finding the focus on Christmas offensive. The only favorable feedback is around the custom playlist generator, which people interacted with quite a bit.

In Spotify’s case, the changes only went out to a small group of users. The product team can take the learnings, undo the changes and revise the improvements based on users’ feedback. As for the few users who dropped Spotify altogether — Spotify can afford to lose them in order to learn.

70% of projects fail due to lack of user acceptance.
Source: Forrester Research

Most companies don’t have that option. They don’t have enough users to run a low-risk, high-reward test like this. Consider a startup or midsized company with less than 10,000 users. They release a beta version of a new app to try and “test” it, hoping to grow revenue. The feedback is negative, but the company doesn’t have funds to immediately implement changes. Worse, they’ve now left their entire user base with a negative impression.

Conducting user research before you launch mitigates these risks. There’s less of a chance of offending or losing customers, and you can make more out of your launch by attracting as many users as possible. It’s not about skipping the MVP — you can still build a beta version of your app. It’s about using your development dollars most effectively the first time, so what you do put out there meets your customers’ expectations and gives them an MLP, or minimum lovable product. With research, you’re building on a solid foundation, instead of dealing with retention issues and paying for rework costs.

Skipping user research cuts into how quickly and efficiently your team can deliver customer value — an opportunity cost that directly affects revenue.

We do user experience research because it allows us to create and deliver products that provide value faster, increasing our chances of success in the market. By learning what behaviors and needs drive users, you can make the most of every opportunity to engage them.

Questions the UX research process can answer

What will make people use a product or service?

88% of online consumers are less likely to return to a site after a bad experience.
Source: Gomez

Will your current/new users like your product or service?

How likely are users to recommend your product or service?

Every $1 spent designing a solution saves $5 fixing the problem during development and $30 fixing the problem after launch
Source: Forrester Research

Without UX research, strategy and design, customers will still answer these questions for you. The danger is that you may get the answer too late to provide a solution. You can’t afford weeks or months of negative user experience. The product or service you launch doesn’t have to be perfect — in fact, it should continue using UX practices to improve with each iteration. But users should be able to instantly tell why your product or service exists, and how it might help them. Starting with user research upfront gives you a head start, and time you can use to build a fanbase.

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.”
— Charles Kettering

Why do user research? Because understanding what users want saves you money

That data will then guide everyone involved with turning your idea into a product and bringing it to market. A user research sprint will give you the tools to find your users’ why — and the proof to back it up. When you can articulate why someone would find a feature valuable and what pain point it mitigates for your customer, you can design better solutions. With those answers, you can be confident that your product or service will excel.

Want to collect your own answers? Read my article on how to conduct user research sprints and email me when you’re ready to get started.

$1 invested in UX earns $100 in return
Source: Forrester Research

Originally written for and published at www.tablexi.com on March 28, 2018.

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