Why User Experience Research is Important

This week’s Turning On The Desk Lamp features Craig Nishizaki, our Sr. Director of Business, Design, and Development. Why is UX research important? Now more than ever users have very high expectations for the user experience of your website, app, anything! If you don’t dig dipper into what your users are telling you, how can you create an experience they want? Craig walks you through our approach and tactical ways UX research can be not only effective by scrappy as well.

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Hi there, I’m Craig. I’m the Senior Director of Business Development at UpTop, and today I’m going to talk about the value of research.

Well, research for a successful UX project is critical. Ideation becomes obvious when you do research because you’re finding the real problems by talking to people or understanding the mental model of the end user. Solutions become more obvious because you’re identifying the problem that they’re really trying to solve for. And ideation becomes smaller because you’re identifying those problems early on.

So research can also be used as a scoping tool because you’re identifying the problem that the end user’s trying to solve, and the real problem that they have. By doing that you’re able to focus your design effort and reduce the number of features that you design and build.

Sometimes people think research is expensive and takes a long time. There’s this perception of research from an academic lens versus a business lens, and whether you do research in an academic mode or a business mode is dependent on your situation. Are you doing a longitudinal study, or are you trying to understand the mental model of your end user of your product, right? It’s all conditional and situational. To keep this in balance, we always remind our UX and research folks our purpose is to create value, not deliverables, and the value is in creating actionable insights and creative problem solving.

So how much research is enough? Again, that’s dependent on what you’re trying to accomplish, but at a minimum what you need to do to start is you need to know who, so the persona, the ideal customer profile or the user profile that you’re targeting. You need to know what the problem is from their perspective. You need to know what the task is that they’re trying to accomplish. You need to know what their motivation is.

Sometimes people say, “I know my customers. You can ask me.” But the reality is we only know so much. The end user, the customer, that person, is the one who really knows themselves.

UX research can actually be really scrappy. Right testing is a method that can be used and you can get insights from as few as one to two participants. Tools like usetesting.com and Usability Hub allow you to spin up remote user tests very quickly. The key is having a person that can provide the actionable insights from that data. It’s not about being able to just view the data, but really analyze and understand it so that you can get value out of that data.

All right, so when it comes to research, is quantitative or qualitative the right approach? Well, we say both depending on what you’re trying to study. If you’re an analytics person, you may say, hey, quantitative’s going to give us everything we need. And if you’re a traditional researcher, you may say qualitative’s the only way we’re going to get to the bottom root cause of the problem. What we do, what we like to approach it as is looking at quantitative data as providing signals and trends and indicators about the friction points and the opportunities for improvement. And then using qualitative methods to dig deeper to understand the why of human behavior.

There’s various methods you can use for qualitative research and what we found is no matter what they are that you’re using, the most valuable insights often come from the verbatim quotes and the session recordings that you get while watching somebody actually using your product. Those provide tangibility and allow you to see really what’s happening.

So the importance of research in a UX design project is to use data to make your design decisions. Tune in next week for another edition of Turning on the Desk Lamp.