Why you must incorporate UX research into your design process
UPDATED April 2023
Very few organizations question the value of User Experience (UX) research when designing or overhauling their digital touchpoints. Recognizing the value in UX and implementing a company culture that encourages and utilizes user research are two different challenges.
The most successful UX teams are involved on the ground floor of new product development. This includes combing through customer feedback to find lapses in existing user experiences, as well as conducting competitive analysis to find out what the other guys are doing—or more importantly, what they’re not doing. Once your design team has a general direction for a new product or redesign, it’s important to get user input throughout the early stages; this includes research around taxonomy, navigational hierarchies, and elements of the product’s look and feel. All of this research can and should be done before a line of code is written. It’s much easier to change these features on a wireframe than on a fully-developed product.
After a working prototype has been developed, it’s common to plan for usability testing before a public release. It’s less common for enough time to be budgeted to address major issues found in usability testing, and even less common for product teams to have the bandwidth to validate changes made as a result of testing. Always plan for multiple rounds of usability testing before a product release. If your organization rolls out releases on a regular basis, sync testing with the cadence of releases (common for agile teams). For any given usability test, validate changes made in previous rounds of testing in addition to testing new features for later releases.
In the end, it’s rarely the UX designer or researcher who gets to have a final say in features, flow, or content. The most important step in every aspect of UX research is to be sure to understand the needs and objectives of brand and product managers. Having stakeholder input and sign-off before each research touchpoint ensures the research adds value to the design process. Furthermore, after results from a touchpoint are delivered it’s important to follow up with stakeholders to understand how the findings are being used and address the additional questions that often come out from the research.
All of these steps promote a culture and cycle of UX research. Too often, the loudest person in the room is responsible for the direction of new product design. Just assuming you know your customers’ needs is an easy way out, but the most successful companies of the last decade have shown that putting customers in the driver’s seat of new product innovation is key to long-term retention, growth, and profitability.
A client we’ve worked with since 2012 is a great example of the business value that UX research can provide. They are a leading online investment broker and their website and app are the lifeblood of their business. They have included UX research in two website overhauls and in the development of dozens of new app features. Following this approach has helped them win multiple awards from investor publications and to become the top-rated trading app in the App Store.
The key takeaway is that improving the users’ experience with your website or app will help you generate more revenue and improve the perception of your brand.