Product Design

May 16, 2019

/ product design

What is UX Research and why it matters?

Milena Pawlak

Lots of entrepreneurs who plan to design and develop a digital product that will fulfill the true needs of their future customers seem to be convinced of the success of their business idea before they check it on potential users. They sound skeptical when asked about conducting in-depth UX research for two reasons: either they are sure that their product will steal customers hearts, or they claim user experience research is an additional cost on the top of all that important spendings they have to bear.

What if the idea for the product itself is wonderful, but it should be organized differently? What if the result of work is not going to be a gem as there are three other, already launched apps similar to our innovation? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to know it before we spend the whole project budget on developing a hair-brained product the improvement of which will generate higher costs than in the beginning? 

Building Digital Product: A Magic Rule

There is a 1:10:100 rule in creating a digital product: spend $1 on research or $10 to change design or $100 to change something in development. Prevention is always better than correction not only in terms of money but also tonnes of work done and wasted.  According to IBM studies “the cost to fix an error found after product release was four to five times as much as one uncovered during the product design process, and up to 100 times more than one identified in the maintenance phase”. The conclusion of this study is evident:  research is crucial when it comes to discovering real customer needs and/or pain points as only delivering a product that gives pleasure or helps release pain will make people want it and pay for it.

You Are Not Your User: What Your Users Really Want

Sometimes it is hard to believe how much we all differ as of the internet and applications users. Some of us prefer filtering and sorting, others enjoy fishing out of chaos. Some people like pictures and movies, the others would rather read the plain text. Do not assume there is one ideal solution to satisfy all humans; better check the context they would use your product.

A few years ago Samsung conducted in-depth research on their users’ preferences. While being focused on perfect sound and high-quality picture in their RD labs, they decided to check how people behave in front of their TVs at home (through ethnographic user studies conducted wide world). Surprisingly they discovered that what their initial assumptions were wrong. It occurred that people accepted decent tv parameters but above all, they desired TV that fits their furniture and is not a primary item seen when they enter the room. Having this research outcome in mind,  Samsung decided to work on flat TVs we are all familiar with. So definitely even having a long history behind the brand does not allow you to claim you know all about the users. 

UX Research Methods - How to Choose an Appropriate Design?

It is impossible to point out one good method of how to conduct decent research. It all depends on the project phase and budget, but even small talk with potential users around you can make a significant difference. Among plenty of activities the most fruitful will be:

  • IDIs (in-depth interview) with users - they take lots of time and effort but questioning those for whom you build your product  is essential to your success, especially at the very beginning of the product design process
  • Card sorting with users will give you a hint on how to make a map of your website/application
  • Field studies will show a real user’s behavior in particular situations
  • Concept testing - going outside the office, even with a paper prototype, will collide very first ideas with real life.

Regardless of the chosen method, according to our experience,  research helps us make fewer mistakes as people probably will behave the opposite of what has been expected.  

6 Extraordinary Benefits of User Research

There is no weak point in doing any research. The more information you gather the more deliberate decisions will be taken. Below you will find a list of a few really good outcomes you can expect after investing your time in product discovery.

  • A verification if your idea is actually a real need of the potential users or if it creates an undiscovered demand - it is a way of challenging your idea in the real world
  • Help in identifying the real users - a target audience
  • A chance to figure out functionalities that are really important to customers and for which they are willing to pay 
  • Getting to know possible weak points and start working on the solutions before they become a huge problem
  • A preparation for pitching investors - you will be ready to answer all the questions and doubts that will appear
  • Receiving first flow suggestion - you will be aware of how people use your product and feel about it.

Further tests on users during the whole process can give additional input like:

  • Catching bugs and badly defined content (Architecture Information)
  • Discovering extra flows
  • Further verification of the idea
  • Fresh insights and input from potential users
  • Verifying the assumptions as you may miss the key point
  • About the design - if suggested colors are acceptable for users

UX Research Saves Your Time And Money 

A simple calculation can be done:

Let’s assume that decision about developing a product has been made. There is no UX research taken into consideration. The product will be developed by 4 developers in 4 months, each cost around 5000 EUR monthly, meaning 80000 EUR for MVP.  What can go wrong? 

  1. If the idea is not challenged with users, it may be absolutely useless for them. There are millions of applications in the world but most of them don't succeed and that 80k EUR never comes back to the pocket of the investor. Mainly because there was no real demand for such a product or it did not solve any problem.
  2. If a project is actually needed on the market there is always a possibility, for example,
    a. it is too complicated to use it in several situations,
    b. it is badly designed,
    c. it does not show real value for customers.

Sometimes a small change of an icon, a feature or layout on the page can make a significant difference for its users.

In first cases having a UX designer on board, which costs around 3000 EUR monthly, will give you savings of 77000 EUR because there is no need to develop the product at the end. In the second issue, a UX designer will be able to discover real user needs, help to implement them into the project and later test the solution with people to see all bugs and inaccuracies and remove them before an application is launched. There is no need to mention a loss of credibility when a delivered product contains errors and half-baked solutions.

Respect Your Users

You should remember that no matter how you will market your solution it is the user who holds the mouse. Disregarding his needs from the very beginning or not investing enough time in research can lead to serious consequences including application failure and substantial loss of money.

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