UX research has the power to make or break your business. Our guide will help you uncover the right strategic decisions and develop best-in-class products.
The lightbulb moment — this is when the seminal idea strikes for your billion dollar unicorn business. Perhaps it’s a mobile cat cafe, like Uber for felines, or a voice-enabled enterprise app that allows sales staff to generate contracts on-the-go by asking Siri.
From eclectic consumer services to time-saving B2B tools, unique ideas can turn into megahits if well-executed. But before shouting “Eureka!” from the rooftops and cashing out your retirement fund as seed money, make sure to do one thing: user experience (X) research.
Once emotionally invested in an idea, many entrepreneurs and executives want to jump straight into development. Excitement drives a strong sense of urgency. At times, though, this enthusiasm results in a product that no one uses and a lot of wasted time, energy, and money.
Sound familiar? Many businesses continue to fall victim to this tendency. However, user experience research has the power to validate (or invalidate) an idea at the outset and ensure that precious resources aren’t misplaced.
The field of UX research has exponentially expanded over the past half dozen years. Tech leaders are realizing that research offers vital insights for strategic decision-making. Yet, most organizations — large and small — still lack this critical function.
Why, you may ask? It’s a great question. From the outside, UX research — also known as user experience research or user research — seems like a clear way to validate an idea before pursuing it at full-throttle. But, when entrenched in a “move fast and break things” culture, getting buy-in for these activities is often harder than you would think.
Top-down respect for UX research is essential.
In my experience working with clients across sectors, leadership teams either value UX research or they don’t. When an executive lacks experience in this realm, limited awareness makes it hard for them to understand why it matters. You cannot drive this agenda from the bottom-up. The decision-makers need to care about research or the function is doomed from the outset.
That’s why I created this guide to UX research. It combines years of illustrative case studies with practical information on applying user experience research to help organizations make the best possible decisions for their future.
While UX research is growing rapidly as a function, the concept is still new to a lot of companies, and that’s because our industry is only so old. It’s been an integrated process within big tech companies like Google and Apple for a while but, in the bigger picture, research is just catching on.
UX/UI design has a similar story. About 10 years ago, tech companies started talking about ‘design, design, design.’ That’s around when mobile arrived and design got its seat at the table.
Well, that’s great, but what are we going to design? Research holds the answer.
If we fast forward 30 years, people are going to look back and think, ‘Wow, look at how immature research-supported product development was! It’s not surprising that there was so much failure.’
When introducing UX research, executive buy-in is essential. Individual team members can request to test it out and prove business impact, which may sway people, but they will only get so far without winning over an influential leader. Culture comes from the top down, and when introducing relatively new concepts, you need executive backing.
A common misconception about UX research frequently hinders implementation.
Organizations looking to roll out new research programs are likely to encounter a popular fallacy. Leaders and staff often fear that introducing research ‘will slow us down.
In reality, UX research creates a more efficient process. Iteration stems from feedback that matters, so you find the right solution more quickly.
When done correctly, research is part of every stage of a product’s lifecycle. It happens before everything else, during design and development, and after launch to continue iterative improvements. Yes, it takes time and effort, but it does not need to be cumbersome.
UX research provides valuable outsider input that can also reduce stalemate. When making choices solely based upon internal feedback, deep biases and faulty assumptions inevitably creep in — especially once egos get involved. Research can reduce in-fighting and improve team dynamics by allowing objective data to help drive strategy.
Usability testing and similar tactics can return results within a day. Sure, you need to bake this into your timeline, but you ultimately save tons of time by ameliorating internal politics and, most importantly, building a product that people actually want.
Rushing into development without UX research is like rushing your product into an early grave. You can “fail fast” and recover with minimal losses during early product development user testing, or you wait for prime time and fail hard, expending all available resources.
Fortune 500 companies are finally emphasizing UX research.
Every company is now a tech company. As executives of major enterprises have come to realize this truth, they have started giving greater weight to user experience research.
Historical strongholds of the U.S. economy, like Ford Motor Company, are bringing aboard leaders who really care about design thinking and research. Some CEO’s even argue that “the business case for UX is a matter of survival.” The game has changed, and companies that fail to adapt are getting left behind.
Measuring the return-on-investment of UX research can take effort. It may not be a simple task which is part of the reason that organizations have been slow to integrate UX research into their standard operations. It is also why the thinking around research tends to be binary: you believe in it or you don’t – you’ve either experienced it or you haven’t.
Leaders who take a broader, long-term view are more likely to make the investment in UX research. Those looking only at the month-to-month financial metrics miss the big picture payoff that research offers.
The start of a research program is nothing to fear. By testing the methods and applying the advice in our executive’s guide, a company of any size can benefit from the strategic insights that UX research provides. Reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help: firstname.lastname@example.org.