Validate Design Decisions With UX Research

How Research Can Improve Your Designs

You may have heard someone mention UX design, human-centered design or design thinking and wondered what exactly they were talking about. User experience (UX) comprises a number of tools that are being increasingly integrated into the field of design and used on everything from websites and mobile apps to products and services. A UX designer looks at the design of a given thing from the perspective of the end user and how they really use it, along with the emotions they experience while using it, such as frustration.

A UX researcher can gain insights and build connections with your audience by talking to or observing real people using your product or service. Research can uncover opportunities, such as user needs that haven’t been addressed, or products that are used differently than expected, or why users are not completing a transaction. Armed with understanding how users engage with your digital or tangible product and the emotions they experience while using it, the UX designer can figure out how to improve the product by making it more user-centric, and recommend strategies to fix it. And just about everything could use a little fixing.

Why User Research?

User experience research saves you money. To get the best results: Test early and often. By using research and testing to validate assumptions early on, you save on development costs. It is both expensive and time-consuming to go back and correct issues discovered after the fact. By testing at significant points in the design cycle you can be assured that your product is on the right track to deliver the best experience to the user — the first time.

Employing UX tools along the way helps ensure that upon launch, your customers, clients and other end-users are impressed the first time they experience what you are offering. That means return visits to your site. It means they tell friends and family about your product. It means they don’t get frustrated, close the window and never return, or never mention your brand in positive way. Periodic post-launch research can ensure your product stays on the right track so you can make iterative changes based on user needs.
UX design keeps the end-user coming back.

How Can I Use UX?

Analytics for existing products and websites tell only part of the story. User research can use your analytics to answer “Why?” For example, “Why do users drop off your site at a particular moment?” or “Why do our female users in a certain age group frequently abandon their carts after beginning the checkout process?” Sure, you can speculate or make assumptions as to why, but the UX researcher uses their tools and experience to find out the answers to these types of questions through methods such as user tests, interviews, ethnographic studies, observation, heuristic analysis, competitive analysis and usability tests.

By validating assumptions — through research — you don’t fix the wrong thing. And you don’t keep on fixing the wrong things, wasting time and money along way — and turning off customers instead of turning them on.

Some areas that UX research and design can help:

• Incrementally improve a website
• Discover points of friction in the buying process
• Improve first impressions
• Create a more seamless experience on your site
• Build stronger relationships with customers
• Test an idea before implementing it

On an initial launch, and in many cases a redesign, the UX designer first interviews the stakeholders to understand goals and assumptions, budgets and timelines. This could include product owners, project managers, executives, sales team members, designers, developers and/or customer service reps. With a research goal established from that information, the UX designer provides a report of the recommended research plan. If all is OK, the research can commence.

But We Don’t Have Time!

Depending on the UX plan and the scope of the project, user research could add two to six weeks, or more, depending on the type and scope of the project. The more thorough the research, the more detailed and accurate the results.

It may sound like a lot at first, but the primary goal is to reduce overall costs and save time in the long run by eliminating redos and the need for redevelopment after a site or product is completed the first time. Adding UX research can eliminate bad first impressions and make sure the worst doesn’t happen: a potential new customer never returns to your site or looks at your product again.

You also might be thinking, I have a great designer or team in place. UX validates their assumptions. If the assumptions are correct, you’ll confirm your product is on the right track. If they don’t prove valid, UX designers can work alongside the design team to strategize and solve any issues uncovered. Or you might think that modeling your site or product on an established one is a sure-fire method of doing it right. Through competitive analysis, for example, we might even discover user experience problems with the competitor — and build you the better mousetrap.