Best Practices

Why User Research and Why Right Now?

To make products people actually want, to avoid running fast in the wrong direction.

Lauren Leonardi
/
December 19, 2017

Users are at the heart of everything in our UX world. Everything we do, all of the decisions we make, are geared toward users’ ultimate comfort, enjoyment of, and loyalty to our product. So it only makes sense not to build in a vacuum, to seek user input regarding their experience as we prove concepts, build, and refine. Here are 3 reasons to prioritize user research, right now.

#1 You don’t know what your users want, they do

User research is one of the very best ways to be sure you’re creating the thing users actually want, and to be sure you and your team aren’t leaving opportunities on the table before and during a build, and after launch.

The ideas that you and your team have in the collective hive mind about how you want users to interact with your product, or how you believe users will interact with your product, or what users might want out of your product in the first place, might not have as much bearing in reality as you’d hope. The only way to know for sure is to ask the people you hope to be your users. And don’t just ask. Observe as well.

In any relationship, the motivations behind human behaviors can be mystifying. This carries to the choices and impulses users make and have when interacting with any product. So, take the guesswork out. UX research is one of the ways we can eliminate some of the more bewildering elements of being a human in this world. If only we could ask friends, partners, and family why they make the choices they do! User research enables us to do just that. What a gift.

Lane Halley is a Digital product design and UX coach for Agile and Lean Startup teams, and she says communicating with customers (and we’d like to add: prospects as well), “shouldn’t be a special occasion.” Communication, and the foundations of strong, healthy, relationship marketing, can begin before a product has even gone to market.

User research enables you to prove yourself right (or wrong) about what you think users will want. It gives you the opportunity to identify valuable insights that you can apply to future builds and projects. It can guide you about where to begin a project, like a redesign. It can guide you on when and where and how to redirect your efforts. Ultimately, user research is the most direct route to obtaining the information that will allow you to deliver a more valuable user experience, which is why we’re all here, after all.

#2 User research is the rudder on the UX boat

There are loads of stats out there that show investment in UX is penny-for-pound worth the effort.

Numerous industry studies have stated that every dollar spent on UX brings in between $2 and $100 dollars in return. 

via Fast Company

Spending 10% of your development budget on usability [can] improve your conversion rate by 83% 

via Nielsen Norman Group

There’s even more research showing that engineers sometimes spend up to half their time undoing work that’s already been done, which is costly and frustrating and a fact no one likes. Fixes can cost as much or more as the original work.

The benefits of user research are clear, and long story short, the earlier you get into research and testing, the better. Likewise, the earlier you can identify where fixes are needed, the less expensive they’ll be.

Treat user research like the rudder on your UX boat, and allow it to direct each project, each milestone, so that you’re always on course. Or, if you don’t like boats, think of user research and testing a bit like bumper lanes in a bowling alley. It’ll keep the project running relatively on its own center, and prevent it from slipping irretrievably into a gutter.

#3 Companies see measurable business results with user research

Here are two quick examples of smaller companies that invested in user research (specifically in UX testing), made some changes to their front end, and saw tangible financial success as a result.

Of course, UX testing is not the only sort of research out there, but it is one of the easier types of research for which we can measure and track clear ROI. A/B testing for instance can show clear before and after lift on metrics that matter, like conversion rate, average order value, or time on site.

For instance

A company called Clickmechanic used remote UX testing to see how users would really interact with their product, and based on the information they gathered, they changed sixteen elements of how they move users through the funnel. After those changes, their conversion rates increased by 50%. True story.

An ecommerce company called LoveHoney used A/B UX testing to increase conversions by about 25%, and overall revenue by more than 100% (after additional advertising).

We love hearing your stories about how your successes and challenges, questions and ideas about UX research. If you’d like to tell your story, write erin@userinterviews.com.

You can also check out our contributor guidelines here, for a complete list of the ways we can work together to tell your story.

Ready to launch a research project and easily recruit quality participants? Get started here.

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Lauren Leonardi

Lauren Leonardi is a globetrotting writer. When she's not writing about UX for User Interviews, she uses digital marketing to support the growth of local, independently owned businesses. She also writes about global travel through the lens of social, economic, and ecological sustainability.

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