Why Conduct User Research?
Let’s tell the story of a typical tech product. It starts with a great idea – maybe a personal pain point you’ve faced, or a hunch about where the market is headed. You spec out an amazing app. You get a team of engineers to build it, and find a designer to make the product look and feel awesome.
You’ve nailed it! Only thing is… you launch, and no one cares. Sounds all too familiar, doesn’t it?
Know what might have made the difference? Talking to your customers and gaining insight into their wants and needs. Also known as… user research!
What is UX Design, really?
“But isn’t UX design all about the look and feel and usability of products – creating things like wireframes and site maps?” you might be asking. Good question!
User Experience design is concerned with every part of how a user interacts with a product. That involves things like understanding interaction design (what is the interface we’re building, and how do user navigate through the product?), information architecture (how is our site/app organized?), and usability (is it easy to use and functional?). But before we can address all the details about how the product works, we first need to understand who we’re building it for, and why we’re building it.
“UX without Research in not really UX.” -Nielsen Norman Group
Quite simply, if you want good UX, your product needs to demonstrate your ability to gain customer insight and empathy to inform any solution you’re building. Increasingly, companies understand the value of user-centered design, and they’re looking to hire people who are skilled in those methodologies to help them create more impactful products (like us!).
Skepticism around User Research
“Research” typically gets a bad rap, and we get why. The word alone conjures ideas of academia, or white lab coats – it sounds like overblown, rigorous academic study that takes years just to understand your research results.
In addition, people are usually more comfortable falling back on what they already know. Engineers code product, and designers work on the user flows and visuals in Photoshop. It’s easier to just build and ship a solution, and hope for the best.
Contrary to these beliefs, user research is actually a crucial part of the UX Design process being adopted by some of the nimblest, most successful teams in technology – including Dropbox and Airbnb.
Does research still sound boring and slow-paced to you? It’s not. You can find a list of our typical research methods here. A lot of our research involves connecting with your target customers and empathizing with their problems. Research can help you create a shorter product development time upfront, because you have a clearer picture in mind of what you’re building, and who it’s for. It makes it easier to solve differences of opinion. Now, the answer to disagreements can be to just test it. UX Research helps you avoid the costly fixes for problems. At the end of the day, we all dream about creating things that people want and love – and user research gives you the best shot at that.