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Save yourself time, money, and sleepless nights by building products users want the first time around.
Even though user research is an essential part of developing new products and services, many teams avoid doing it properly or skip it entirely. Arin Bhowmick, Global Vice President & Chief Design Officer at IBM, compared it to the way we put off our least favorite chores:
Many people seem to think of research as an inherently difficult thing, and then avoid it like the plague, despite knowing it needs to be done. In reality, avoiding research rarely makes things easier—the time and effort you save at the beginning of a project gets eaten up later on, when you have to go back and fix things that don’t work the way you hoped.
In this post, we’ll outline some of the reasons UX research should be at the top of your to-do list, as well as the consequences of skipping user research.
It’s true. Even though you spend all day thinking about how to do things for your users, you may not know how or why they make decisions as well as you think you do. Don’t believe us? A study from Bain showed that while 80% of companies believe they provide a “superior experience” to their customers, only 8% of their customers agree.
So who’s right here? The customers of course! They’re the ones who actually get to decide if your experience is “superior” or not, since they interact with it.
Many people assume that since they work on something for a user, they have enough insight to guess what that user will like. But that’s a dangerous assumption to make.
“It’s only natural to assume that everyone uses the Web the same way we do, and—like everyone else—we tend to think that our own behavior is much more orderly and sensible than it really is.” — Steve Krug, author of Don’t Make Me Think.
The ideas that you and your team have in the collective hive mind about how you want users to interact with your product, how you believe users will interact with your product, or what users want out of your product in the first place, might not have as much bearing in reality as you’d hope.
User research can help you (and your team!) validate whether or not your hypotheses about what users want are accurate. This can lead to more aligned work throughout the entire company, since your collective idea of what the user wants is based on outside input instead of what each team member thinks.
If the collective joy of learning what your users really want isn’t quite enough motivation, maybe some cold, hard cash will spark your interest . Because doing user research at the beginning of your product development cycle can actually save you money. That’s right, research can be the key to saving some of that precious budget. .
There are loads of stats out there that show investment in UX is penny-for-pound worth the effort. From Fast Company:
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.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation:
So, by spending a little more time on UX and research at the beginning of your project, you can cut down the time you spend on your project, both now and in the future.
We’re not just talking about individual project budgets either: the salaries of your team members—from product designers to customer success managers—are much better spent creating new things and optimizing existing experiences, rather than fixing old problems that arise from bad assumptions about what your users need.
For example, lets say your developers spend 40 hours building a new website (a low estimate, to be safe). If you do no user research or usability testing, it’s likely you’ll have to go back and correct some mistakes later. This could mean your developers spend up to 20 hours fixing the problems, which they could have done within the original scope. Now, you’ve not only lost precious time, you’ve spent an extra $720 paying developers to fix an avoidable problem.
The whole world explodes 💥. No, just kidding. But it’s not a user-friendly picture, that’s for sure. Skipping user research can lead to bad user experiences and products that don’t fit the market. It can mean you’re creating something without a true understanding of who that thing is for or how it fits into real-world scenarios.
“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 of IDEO
A bad user experience can not only lead to frustrated customers, it can cause you to miss huge opportunities. Jared Spool, co-founder of Center Centre, has one of the best stories about how fixing a bad user experience can provide big rewards—to the tune of $300 million.
He was working on a project for an e-commerce client. They wanted to improve their conversion rate, but had no idea there was one button standing in their way. The checkout form had two fields—Email and Password—and two buttons—Login and Register. With some usability testing, Jared uncovered that users didn’t want to provide registration information before checking out with their item. Plus, returning users frequently forgot their password and would need to reset it before checking out.
The solution? Jared and the designers removed the “Register” button. They allowed users to create an account during checkout if they wanted to instead.
The results? The number of customers purchasing went up by 45%. In the first year, the e-commerce site saw an extra $300 million.
“There are no bad ideas,” encouraging managers will say. And while this may hold true in a brainstorm session, the fact is that not all ideas will resonate with users.
Without research, it’s easy to act on “good ideas” the wrong way, ultimately creating something no one really needs or wants. And building something that people don’t want to buy is a surefire way to fail.
Here at User Interviews, we learned this lesson the hard way. Did you know that we didn’t even start out as a user research company? It’s true—in our founders initially got together to create an app that allowed users to access hotel amenities from their phones. After that idea didn’t work out, our founders knew they had to pivot. So they brainstormed fresh ideas and decided to go out and validate them with user research this time around.
The only problem? User research participants were pretty hard to come by. They were either too expensive to source with agencies, or too hard to contact through social media and other channels.
That was a lightbulb moment, and it’s how our founders decided to create User Interviews in order to make it easy for teams to discover and embrace user insights, rather than relying on best guesses or intuition.
You can think of user research and testing a bit like bumper lanes in a bowling alley. It’ll keep each project running relatively on its own center, and prevent it from slipping irretrievably into a gutter. UX research is the most direct route to obtaining the information and insights that will allow you to deliver a more valuable user experience—which is why we’re all here, after all.
Luckily, with User Interviews, finding research participants is a lot easier than it used to be. We’ll even give you 3 participant credits for free when you launch your first research project—so there’s really no excuse for not validating your ideas with real, live users.
User research doesn’t have to take a long time or tons of effort. It can be a quick and easy task once you understand how to conduct good research and store it properly.
The following resources will help you master the basics, do more efficient research, and make more informed decisions in 2021:
Carrie Boyd is a UXR content wiz, formerly at User Interviews. She loves writing, traveling, and learning new things. You can typically find her hunched over her computer with a cup of coffee the size of her face.