User research: don’t design your product without it
To be truly user-oriented when designing digital products, you need to put yourself in the user’s position.
This may seem obvious, but many still view user research only as an optional part of the development process.
Here are four reasons why this is not the case.
But seriously, user research!
Think about it: how do you propose to solve a problem for a user when you don’t understand his or her situation?
We always attach importance to user research when developing new digital products. You can have all the design knowledge in the world. But at the end of the day, the only product experts who matter are the users of your application. It’s important to find out exactly what they think.
In-depth, targeted user research is nevertheless too often seen as “nice to have” rather than as an integral part of product development.
Our recommendation? That you have your own UXR (User Experience Research) team. This, and only this, will allow all your clients to get the most out of your investment in thorough user research.
If you still have doubts about the benefits that user research can offer, here are four reasons why it’s crucial to the design and development of digital products that people love to use.
1) User surveys save you time
Research on digital product users as a discipline has been around for over a decade, but sometimes it can be a challenge to convince customers of its value.
It’s not uncommon within companies to view user research as unpleasant at best. Many even despise the process or write it off as irrelevant. Or confuse it with another valuable approach, namely, participatory design.
Customers who are looking for a digital product that will be developed, built and released as soon as possible often come to us.
In these cases, user surveys are seen as an unnecessary obstacle or distraction that gives the product plan more time.
As card-carrying advocates of user research, we see it as our duty to push for its implementation at the earliest possible stage of the product development process.
And while it may seem to extend the project duration by more time, it can actually save a lot of time on the product map.
For example, when designing an app for a real estate client, you could utilize user data to postulate a completely new approach to acquiring and storing users for their new platform.
Your client might not ever have considered such an approach, and be thrilled to have it implemented in the final product.
Thanks to user research, we were able to develop this idea before anything was built and integrate it with the project from the very beginning.
If we had not done the research at the beginning of the project, we probably would have created the platform using the old strategy of acquiring users.
This would not only have harmed the initial traction of the platform, but might have needed further development. This would have left the client to foot the bill.
2) User research gives you the tools to question assumptions
Many companies think that they know their customers well, even if they have never done user research themselves.
This is a widespread scenario that can lead to deep-rooted assumptions in a company that are difficult to change.
Fortunately, there are a number of techniques that you can use during user research to proactively counteract assumptions. These include simply listing existing assumptions and questioning them with hypotheses.
For many customers, this process can be extremely informative.
Just like jumping from an analogue black and white TV to 4K HD, you’ll see problems in a whole new way and with great, clear colors.
The shift of perspective will provide inspiration and enable you to envision new ways of working.
3) User research helps you confirm your intuitions
Verifying and validating your assumptions is just as important as challenging them.
Sometimes your hypothesis makes perfect sense, but you don’t have the data to back it up.
User surveys can provide this data.
While it’s easy to set high demands on user research to provide information about buyers and stunning revelations, it’s also just as effective at checking what they think.
However, if you want to develop a new internal application for business teams but your company has never done so, it can be difficult to work with other stakeholders in the company.
You might intuitively know that the world needs your application, or that it will improve work efficiency for users. But proof of these beliefs? Not a trace of it.
Thanks to user surveys, you can collect all the data that you need to share with internal stakeholders and verify your ideas.
Of course, success is still not guaranteed, but you can be sure that your application is based on solid principles and provides the best conditions for success.
4) Even small samples can yield invaluable data
In an ideal world, the user testing process would include a carefully selected, representative sample of participants. And this sample would perfectly reflect the composition of the target user group.
In a perfect world, however, user-researched software and product development is not the rule. It’s the exception.
Disaster will strike, especially if you have to rush your project.
In particular, locating test and interview participants can be difficult. And ensuring that the user test pool is representative of the end users can be a grueling process.
But that shouldn’t scare you away!
The old UX proverb says that even a little user research is better than none at all.
And although you might often be forced to make compromises on your sample size, the results are still going to be relevant in the vast majority of cases.
Small groups and even individual users can still provide valuable feedback on quality and you should not be afraid to consider their ideas – after all, they are still potential users.
Every application you use every day has been subjected to intensive and continuous testing for users to confirm design decisions and improve their functionality. This is what ensures these apps’ relevance to users.
Without them, the applications we rely on would probably be bulky, and cumbersome to use.
Google, Deliveroo, Uber (and many other companies) are also avid public proponents of the importance of researching user experience. If it’s good enough for you, it should be for your next app or other digital product as well!
Review: U gotta UXR!
There are many more reasons than just the four main ones listed here why user research is not a “nice to have,” but rather, an absolute must in the mobile app design process. There are scads of benefits to user research. For starters, it:
- lets you create efficient designs that solve users’ problems
- softens their learning curve for your product through intuitive design
- enables users to get the job done without glitches
- teaches you important lessons about your competitors’ products
- gives you insight into the return on investment (ROI) for UX design
- eases the identification of early adopters
- helps you validate your app idea
What more do you need to know? Now that you are just as convinced of the value of user research as we are, isn’t it about time you start assembling your in-house UXR team?