The Importance of User Research
When it comes to user research, a lot of businesses only really think about this once they’ve designed a product or service. They’ll consider how easy someone would find their product to use, or how to make it appealing to users when creating a marketing campaign. And while these are important considerations, you also need to consider the user at various other stages of the customer journey.
It’s also good to explore the reasons why organisations undertake user research. Generally they’re trying to create relevant designs that are straightforward to use, and get a high return on investment. But are there other benefits to user research? We’ve looked at some of the advantages below.
As the name suggests, user research is about putting your user at the heart of your creation and marketing processes. It’s sometimes referred to as design research, if carried out before building a particular product or service.
There are a huge variety of methods when undertaking UX research, though generally the choice is between qualitative and quantitative research. With the former, this could be interviews with your target audience, to get an in-depth understanding of the needs of your users. Quantitative research is about measuring key user behaviour metrics, which can be used for statistical analysis. This method tends to be focussed on getting a good ROI.
Essentially, the type of research you carry out will depend on what you’re hoping to achieve with the results. If you’re trying to determine what would appeal to your target audience, you’d opt for qualitative research, while businesses looking to increase their profit margin would probably use quantitative research. Of course there are other factors to consider too, such as time constraints, your budget, and the type of project you’re working on.
While providing a great product or service is essential for any company, how people interact with your brand will often determine whether you’ll get repeat business. User experience can inspire loyalty and maximise customer engagement. And the key to perfecting the user journey is to undertake lots of research! That way, you can understand the needs and expectations of your target audience.
Studies have shown that UX research can make a positive impact on businesses. According to a report from User Testing, 81% of executives found that research into user experience made their company more efficient, while 86% of those surveyed believed that such research improved the quality of their services and products.
User research can furthermore save your business a lot of money. The average cost to develop a minimum viable product (a product that solves a problem, but may not have all the bells and whistles required to take it to market) is between $15,000 and $50,000. That’s a lot of money to invest in a product that may not be useful or appeal to your audience. Conducting research before you even reach the design stage takes all the guesswork out of product design and development, and should prevent you from investing capital in something that won’t sell!
Create Relevant Products
Another advantage of UX research is that you can design products that people are interested in. It’s the only way to be confident that developing a product or service will be economically viable. Basically, a design that isn’t relevant to its target audience will ultimately fail.
So in order to empathise with your audience, you need to conduct market research, learning the possible uses for a design concept. And then once you start building this product, you need to undertake more research, to check whether the design continues to be relevant every step of the way. It’s easy to steer away from your original ideas and make assumptions, but UX research can help you stay on track.
Appealing and Functional Designs
If using a product is too difficult, people simply won’t use it. Technology these days has to be easy to learn and use – it’s no longer just a tool for experts. And unless you’re working in a field with absolutely no competitors, your design has to have a better level of usability than that of your competition. So how do you determine the usability of your product? Obviously, the answer is user research.
Your design should also be appealing to an audience, as well as functional. You don’t just want it to be intuitive to use, you also want people to enjoy using your product or service where possible. Even if it’s a highly specialised bit of tech, designed for a particular workplace, an appealing design can make employees feel happier in their day-to-day tasks, not to mention make work processes faster and more efficient.
Improving Your Return on Investment
User research can boost your ROI. But unfortunately, key stakeholders don’t always understand this, and won’t provide enough funding for the research phases of design and development. Research doesn’t always provide tangible results straight away, so it can be tricky convincing the higher ups that it’s worth investing in. You may not see the negative consequences of user research budget cuts until the product reaches the user, unlike budget cuts in an area like software development – you’d notice the change immediately.
While there are many studies that have shown the value of user research, it’s often best to conduct your own tests. A/B testing during development can evidence the need for user input – comparing different versions of a design should demonstrate how much weight audience opinion can have. Overall, keep in mind that you won’t make money if your users don’t like your product, so make sure you know what they like!