Understanding users’ needs, wants, and expectations can be the key to creating a successful user experience (UX). In this article, we will explore the importance of user experience research and when conducting user experience research is beneficial during product development.
Most UX research is conducted to identify what features matter and whether or not it’s easy for the user to engage with them. Unfortunately, many leaders assume their design team can intuit how users will perceive and engage with their product, despite overwhelming evidence that conducting user experience research is the most effective way to improve the user experience. According to Statista, “44.5 percent of organizations worldwide revealed that they perceive customer experience (CX) as a primary competitive differentiator.” However, this awareness appears to be in sharp contrast with the percentage of product teams that deploy user experience research as an integral part of the product development process.
Properly executed studies often uncover highly actionable insights that don’t require much planning to execute. In a recent case study on a team engagement platform, user feedback indicated that the “greying effect” they applied to portions of their Business-to-Business (B2B) collaboration platform was misleading users to believe they could not interact with crucial elements of the user interface. Similarly, users were overlooking important hyperlinks and buttons due to the design’s color scheme. Every possible advantage in the marketplace matters, so seemingly unimportant design choices, like whether a button is gray or blue or what word is used to describe it, can outsize market share and revenue. Further, research findings and recommendations often go beyond the product design; for this client, testing revealed that their initial product demonstration was not substantive enough to brief users on their product offering, leading to confusion and fatigue as users floundered to understand the platform’s purpose and potential.
UX research is an important, but often misunderstood step in making a compelling product or service. It helps to understand users’ needs, wants, and expectations, which leads to a positive user experience by informing the design and strategy of the product. User experience research is often mixed up with design, as essentially a subtask to be expected of the design team’s creative process. This approach leads to an internal situation where the product team starts to rely on the instincts of the design team instead of realizing that this is a separate function that requires a different set of skills. A team of researchers working cross-functionally with designers can mitigate bias in study design and user feedback because the design isn’t their “baby,” so to speak.
When deciding to research user preferences, you’re opening the door to testing anything and everything within the product that could be subjective. It’s crucial to work with user experience researchers to identify specific areas of study within the user journey by outlining possible use cases, analyzing current customer feedback (i.e., reviews), and brainstorming with your product team to produce research questions and requirements. Once outlined, these research questions can be methodically tackled with relevant studies, resulting in high-level and granular recommendations to improve the user experience.
While investigating the minutia of a product design might seem a bit much, our clients are often surprised by the effectiveness of even small changes recommended based on study observations and feedback. Tweaks, like adding relevant error messages, revisiting information architecture/copywriting, and emphasizing elements of their user interface to facilitate user interactions better, seemed like no-brainers after the fact but would not have been implemented had user experience research been neglected. Designers and product teams can be too close to their product to see shortcomings or areas of improvement; listening to users is the only surefire way to understand how a product can and should evolve.
Making user experience research an integrated part of the product development process can increase the odds that users will engage with the product or service without unnecessary obstacles. Ideally, user experience research should be done before effort is wasted on building the wrong things or on building things for the wrong audience, but it can also be used to get an existing product or service back on track.
So, when should you conduct user experience research? The methodology can vary depending on your product/service and development stage – methods are often used in tandem and repeated throughout the development cycle. However, there are some general stages to consider when planning user experience research activities:
When ideating (or conceptualizing) your product, empathizing with users will inform the design process and help avoid costly missteps. Picking the brains of stakeholders and potential users (that meet the criteria of developed User Personas) via Requirements Workshops and Stakeholder Interviews can help refine the product offering and design elements. Further, conducting user experience research at the start of the product development process can help identify areas of the product design or strategy that may require improvement. Comparative Assessments of competing products, Expert Reviews of product mockups/test instances, and other methods can help you to prioritize development efforts and refine the product as per users’ requirements.
Once you’ve prototyped and launched your product or service, conducting user experience research can provide crucial insight into whether the product meets users’ needs. Usability Testing to assess design features and user interfaces by observing users’ interactions with them, Card Sorting to validate information architecture by aligning it with user perceptions, and User Journey Mapping to empathize with users’ click paths and emotional responses will help you identify any design issues and improve accordingly.
Investing additional resources in a product or service without knowing if users value them can be risky. Conducting user experience research before investing more significant resources can help to identify any issues and validate the product team’s assumptions. Gathering qualitative and quantitative data through observation of users, interviews with stakeholders and users, A/B testing of features or messaging, surveys that gather open-ended responses/produce Net Promoter and System Usability Scores, and more will help you to understand user feedback as you iterate through updates.
Good products evolve over time. If you’re making changes to your product or service, conducting user experience research can be transformative, no matter how insignificant the change might seem. Analyzing gathered data by monitoring incoming information for patterns and trends and listening throughout the research and design cycle will help your team understand existing problems and uncover new avenues for improvement.
The reality is this: UX research is more than just a nice-to-have. It’s a vital part of the product development process that should be ongoing and integrated into every stage of development, particularly at the start, after launching a product or service, and when making significant changes. By conducting user experience research, informed decisions can be made to improve the design and functionality of your product based on user needs and preferences, ultimately leading to a positive user experience. For more information on how enterprise is making the customer voice a centerpiece of product planning, download the report today.
Let us know if the concepts in this article or the report pique your interest. The REEA Global User Experience Research team can deliver studies that inform the next iteration of your product with nuanced user feedback and then engage an in-house team of 140+ engineers to bring it to life. For more information or to talk to one of our specialists, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The imminent sunset of Drupal 7 signals a crucial juncture for enterprises.With January 2025 fast approaching, the end-of-life for Drupal 7 necessitates immediate attention and strategic action.
At the core of every digitally-driven business resides a network of intricately interlinked processes and workflows, serving as the bedrock of organizational productivity and triumph.With extensive experience in leading product teams across various industries, we've witnessed firsthand the challenges businesses face as they approach expansion and evolution.
In the dynamic world of software development, leadership transitions bring both opportunities and challenges.As a new leader in a pivotal role with decision-making authority related to software development projects, you may find yourself at a crossroads where you have the power to effect significant change.
” Their work was on time, within budget, and of the highest quality. In addition to their core expertise, the REEA GLOBAL team has a lot of skill in anticipating unspoken needs. The result was a final deliverable that was much better than envisioned ”
Court – Executive Director
” Our entire team, including our executive leadership, found this to be an incredibly valuable investment that allowed us to change a few things, even mid-build to ensure the next version release of our product was as user-friendly as possible ”
Jessica – Head of Product
” They went above and beyond meeting our design needs and easily saved our company 6 months to a year’s worth of work. REEA delivered a gorgeous product design that put us on par with our much larger competitors. We are now punching way above our weight and REEA is one of the reasons why. ”
Tim – Co-Founder
” It has been a pleasure to work alongside their experienced frontend and backend developers as a team to meet our product goals. REEA Global’s staff is professional, reliable, and trustworthy — a great partner through the challenges of software development. ”
Deena – Head of Product
” The team is super responsive and is helping us prioritize our needs. The weekly meetings allow us to check in and give us an opportunity to bring up issues in a timely manner. ”
Karen – Director of Clinical Programs
” The team was organized and prepared in addition to providing the executive team with seamless communication and full transparency during the process, something we had lacked in prior relationships I would highly recommend the REEA Global team. ”
Evan – CEO & Founder
” REEA was seamless in their setup and, more importantly, integration with the existing team. The work product was excellent, and we certainly plan to keep using them ”
Jason – CEO