User research is arguably one of the most important steps in the web design and development process. User research helps surface how the user thinks and behaves, as well as their needs and motivations. Web applications and sites are meant to help, engage, or inform specific users on one or many topics or tasks. Before you begin designing, don’t you want to know what the end user wants and needs? It will sure save a lot of time in the long-run by avoiding assumptive decision making that could backfire once it enters user acceptance testing (UAT) or goes live.
Is a Successful Project Dependent on User Research?
Yes and no. You can certainly deliver a successful project without doing user research. But… ensuring that you are delivering a well-designed, intuitive product requires informed decision making at the earliest stage of the project. Often times, project stakeholders are the farthest removed from direct communication with their end users. This can be problematic when they are the ones approving application prototypes for development. If you miss the mark by approving designs prior to performing user research, it could end up costing you more than user dissatisfaction if you have to go back to the drawing board and redesign interfaces and workflows.
Web design and development shouldn’t be a guessing game if you have the option to avoid it. An intuitive user and customer experience relies on evidence-based strategies for an application to be successfully adopted and used. During the project lifecycle, you must constantly ask yourselves, “what are our users trying to accomplish?”, and “are we designing this to meet our users' expectations”? But before that, you must first know who your users are. This is where User Research methodology comes into play.
User Research Methods
User research techniques can be quantitative (e.g., statistics and numbers focused) and qualitative (e.g., insights and observations that can’t be computed). Google Analytics analysis is a good example of quantitative user research and user surveys are an example of qualitative user research. It’s best to balance your research to include both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Here are several research and strategy methods that we use throughout our process. These methods provide our clients with knowledge about their users’ goals and pain points, which in turn helps inform our design strategy and direction.
- User Experience Workshops – workflow discovery and shadowing
- Google Analytics – Review user data on existing sites
- User Surveys – discover what your users really want and need
- Empathy Mapping – capture user behaviors and attitudes
- User Personas and Journeys – personify target user types and map out task-based scenarios they will encounter and intended paths throughout the application
- Prototyping & UAT – user acceptance testing to provide an opportunity to request design changes/updates prior to application launch
- Follow-up User Surveys – additional user feedback after launch to inform Phase 2 enhancements as more feedback can be collected after continued application use
Regularly Scheduled UX Check-ins
Business goals and user goals can be different but both are equal in terms of importance. You can find a happy medium to appease both parties. For example, a business’ goal may be to reduce overhead by avoiding hiring additional customer service representatives. Meanwhile, the user’s goal is to use the tools and information they are provided with so they can answer their own questions, or complete their important tasks online without having to call support in the first place. In this scenario, it’s important to dig into why the users are calling support in the first place.
- Is it because the website won’t load the form that they need?
- Or the site isn’t intuitive enough for the user to accomplish their end goal?
- Is it both?
This is why it’s important to continue to be proactive and continue user experience (UX) research even after launch. Ongoing UX check-ins verify that the site is still supporting both the business and user goals. If they aren't, this research can inform necessary UX improvements. Contact us today if you need help creating a better user experience for your clients, we can help!