The Benefits of User Experience Research – Part 2
What is User Experience Research?
User experience research (UXR) aims to empathize with users, developing a deep understanding of their desires and abilities while maintaining the context of the business objectives. With possible applications to every aspect of the design process, user experience research supports iterative improvements to your software and services that enhance users’ experiences with and perceptions of your product.
By empathizing with users and testing the usability of your digital solution, user experience research determines the functionality, efficiency and desirability of your product. Best practices promote and “provide a consistent, rapid, controlled, and thorough method of examining the users’ perspective.” (1)
How is User Experience Research conducted?
- Discovery: Refine the scope of your study based on the users’ current behavior, the digital landscape the product inhabits, and any existing blockers to development.
- Data Collection: Interact with and observe users to gather direct feedback via field research. Typically, evaluations with small sample sizes of users reveal the most obvious problems.
- Data Analysis: Reveal trends in the qualitative and quantitative data by thematically grouping user feedback, then present research insights and recommendations to stakeholders via Case Studies and comprehensive Research Reports.
- Debrief: Revisit the initial research questions and determine the scope of the next study needed to ensure the design is properly iterated upon.
User experience research can be applied at every phase of the design process; from discovering what design components users prefer to locating pain points in the user journey. Collecting and analyzing direct user feedback is critical at every stage of project development. The methods employed to collect feedback can be, and often are, applied at multiple design stages to establish and compare users attitudes and behaviors.
Best practices for user experience research involve eliminating bias, or patterns of behavior that can influence the results of user studies (2). To avoid confounding or unsound results, we strive to eradicate cognitive biases and are transparent about any limitations that arise.
How can User Experience Research benefit your team?
- Set yourself apart from your competition by empathizing with your users’ needs/abilities.
- Increase Return On Investment (ROI) by improving user satisfaction and engagement.
- Save time and money down the line by investing in user feedback as soon as possible.
- Apply meaningful changes to your product by continuously discovering concrete ways to improve the user experience (7).
During the design process, focusing resources on the frequency of usability issues and why they occur is the easiest way to avoid costly design mistakes at later stages. In truth, success isn’t guaranteed by a good user experience; a bad one, however, leads to swift failure (1). Even worse than complete failure is mediocrity – small pain points scattered throughout a mediocre user journey can go unnoticed, creating a “death by a thousand papercuts” scenario for your users that is lethal to their experience with your product.
According to an extensive report by PwC, “even when people love a company or product, 59% will walk away after several bad experiences.” Further, only one bad experience with a brand they love would drive away 32% of all customers. User experience research can help ensure your ROI by increasing user satisfaction and engagement. Users are more loyal to products and services that offer a better experience and are willing to spend up to 16% more for that experience, per Forbes.
Uncovering where the design of your product meets and fails your users with quantifiable and qualitative research insights is crucial to add structure to the design and evaluation of your product. User experience research metrics can help reveal patterns in user behavior that are hard or even impossible to see; qualitative data helps illuminate pain points that aren’t visible in numerically reported data and better inform design decisions.
For example, conversion rates for purchases via your website may be high, but interviews with users could reveal minor pain points throughout the user interface, such as irritating copy or an unnoticeable button, that cause some users to drop out before completing their purchases. To recoup those lost orders, empathize with user feedback to improve the primary user journey. 70% of buying experiences are based on how users perceive their treatment, according to a Mckinsey report.
The compilation of small inefficiencies over time can negatively impact the user experience; to better understand user behavior and gain new insights as to how to improve your product, gathering user experience metrics is a must. Without the insights provided by directly empathizing with and studying user behavior, important design choices may be influenced by faulty assumptions or “gut feelings.” User experience metrics are the only surefire indication of whether the user experience improves with every iteration of the product’s design. Regardless of the research outcomes, implementing user experience research creates a “win-win scenario” (2):
- If the new version tests better than the old, then the improvements to the design are validated and the next study can be designed.
- If the new version tests worse, the fresh data collected provides insights as to how to remediate the design.
- If there is no difference in user experience between the old and new versions, the data can be analyzed to isolate ways that improvements to other aspects of the product could improve the user experience.
In short, the benefits of User Experience Research are well-documented and tangible. It allows you to create and iterate intuitive designs that fill a need and enable users to solve their problems without frustration. User Experience research also reveals important lessons about products’ released by your competitors and promotes increases to your ROI (6).
Myths About User Experience (1)
- You Can Design Based On Instinct
The only way to remove guesswork from your design decisions is to implement user experience research. How can you be certain how users perceive and interact with your product without asking and observing them? Further, counterintuitive design solutions and outlier use cases may improve the user experience for the majority of your users, but would never be applied without user experience metrics to validate them.
- Small Sample Sizes Don’t Produce Reliable Data
Analyzing small sample sizes (5-30 users) is common practice for user experience research. A larger sample size can certainly increase confidence in the results, but observing a small group of users provides an intimate and accurate look at their generalizable experiences with your product.
- User Experience Research Isn’t Worth It For Small Improvements
The incorrect assumption that metrics reveal the magnitude of user issues but not their causes is a prevalent one. In truth, user experience research exposes problems, investigates their cause and provides recommendations as to how to mitigate those problems.
- UX Metrics Are Too Noisy To Determine Causation
A few simple techniques can be employed to reduce noise in the data collected for user experience research. With careful thought and transparency in analysis, a clear picture of user behavior and attitudes is revealed.
- Management Doesn’t Appreciate Metrics
User experience metrics provide credibility to your product, design choices and team. There is no way to lose when gathering and applying user experience metrics to your design process – doing so will only enhance your product and operations.
- Goodman, E., Kuniavsky, M., & Moed, A. (2012). Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research (2nd ed.) [Kindle]. Elsevier, Inc.
- Albert, B., & Tullis, T. (2022, March 7). Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting UX Metrics (Interactive Technologies) (3rd ed.). Morgan Kaufmann.
- PwC. (2018). Experience is everything: Here’s how to get it right. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
- Hyken, S. (2018, April 1). Your Best Opportunity For Growing Business: The Customer Experience. Forbes. Retrieved September 21, 2022.
- Ilker, Y. (2018, August 31). Reasons Your Company Should Care About UX and UX Research. Medium. Retrieved September 22, 2022.
- THE IMPACT OF SOFTWARE USER EXPERIENCE ON CUSTOMER SATISFACTION – ProQuest. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2022.
- Oman, Z. (2020, August 5). Why Product Teams Need User Researchers for Continuous Discovery. TWG. Retrieved September 22, 2022.