“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do,” so said Swiss psychologist Carl Jung. A keen observer of human nature, Jung knew the best way to understand a person is to spend time with them—to observe their behavior, and then work to understand why.
As someone who has worked in user experience for several decades, I know that, in this case, this wisdom is spot on. And nowhere does this hold truer than within the field of UX Research & Design. Assumptions about other end-user or customer needs and preferences often prove to be incorrect. Despite the success of user-centric brands like Apple and Facebook, product owners, designers, and developers often make assumptions or have misconceptions about how to build a successful product and brand, and the ones about user research are probably hurting your budget and bottom line.
Misconception #1: UX research is time-consuming and expensive
The most common misconception about UX research is that it takes a long time — months or even years. For some, it may feel that way, but it’s usually not the research that is time intensive, it’s the complexities of research preparation (or lack thereof) that eat most of the time and costs. For instance, research prep often involves identifying a business need, scoping project needs (questions), finding a vendor, or waiting for resources (researchers, budget, access to participants) to do the work, defining the participant type, screening, and scheduling of participants. Before you scoff at the idea of defining users, or paying participants, remember, there is no point in doing research at all if you don’t actually test with ACTUAL users. Remember, NO PROXY USERS!! Product owners, dev teams, and designers that build time into their project schedules and either pre-recruit or have a panel of participants to contact, spend little to no time prepping and completing research And though doing it this way does not exempt anyone from paying user compensation, the costs of acquiring participants (marketing, vendors, etc.) decreases dramatically. A perfect example might be the agile teams, who build research into their process and iteratively test with users, get findings, recommendations, and a readout within 24 to 48 hours. Of course, no research project can be successful without qualified participants, but finding and scheduling them is usually tedious and manual. Without planning, you can burn through valuable time in your schedule while you might have had testers onboarded and working ahead of time.
Misconception #2: Results provide short-term findings & solutions
Barring a major change in society (technology, government, pandemics, etc.) and personal circumstances, human behavior can be used to predict future behavior. That means that when well written, user research findings can be reused to answer questions in other parts of your business.
For example, if you’re conducting UX research for the product team, another team, such as the sales team, can find insights or learnings that they can apply to how they talk about the product or anticipate questions in their own processes or approaches.
Overall, thorough UX research findings bring companies together by breaking down silos. All parts of the business, from sales to customer support, should utilize thorough UX research in design and messaging decisions. The benefits are multiplied when teams and departments collectively share and look at research from different perspectives.
Misconception #3: They’re just asking questions
Effective UX research is far more than asking obvious questions. It’s hearing what customers are complaining about and UNDERSTANDING what is and isn’t working for them. This kind of information is instrumental in helping product teams address how to educate, train and support their customers. However, it is not about asking just any question. UX researchers are meticulous about their methods, asking questions that get at the core of the matter. Insights expertly gleaned from interviewing customer support and customers, both prospective and existing, can be implemented in design for a more engaging user experience across the board. And when a customer or user is happy with their experience, they are more likely to recommend you to friends and family. And this leads to an increase in customer referrals.
It's good to keep in mind that a positive user experience has a profound impact. It can increase conversion rates by 200%. First impressions occur between people within 7 seconds: an excellent first experience can convert customers into evangelists. And this is true when it comes to interfacing with both websites and apps as well.
Misconception #4: It’s just UI (user interface) Research
Good UX research can guide marketing and content strategy because UX researchers hear from customers exactly how they describe the product or services and its benefits. Hearing the specific words customers use can inform messaging strategy and give it a familiar, trusting feel. Analyzing research over time can help teams see potential trends and customer appetite. Targeted messaging will give insight into customer pain points, desires, and areas of ambivalence. UX research can also inform content development. Is there something the user doesn’t understand about the product or service? That’s the valuable insight that fuels the development of more effective content and crafting campaigns.
Misconception #5: It’s just business
In your own life, when you meet someone new and you’re interested in getting to know them, you talk and ask questions. You look for common ground and discover differences. Your understanding grows as you learn about their world—what kind of music they like or the movies they watch. You begin to understand what they care about and why expanding your own perspective in ways you may not expect. You form a relationship. That relationship creates opportunities for you to help each other. You have to approach business the same way. Customers are more than transactional exchanges. Business is relationship building. To ensure you are building lasting relationships, you must focus on the experiences, beliefs, and knowledge systems crisscross stemming from that initial impulse to observe and listen to a person—to understand them.
UX research is always surprising. When applied intelligently, the findings it yields have the power to further expand a company’s presence and messaging that meets people as they are, not as we’d imagine them to be.
Contact us, to learn more about relationship building through UX Research.