UX research in the design process (1/2)
Every Product Designer reacts enthusiastically to the slogan: “Let’s conduct research with users.” But while awareness of the importance of research has grown significantly in recent years, it is still not the obvious choice among customers. Research evokes many conflicting emotions. On the one hand, they will be an invaluable source of information about how users use the product and their real problems and needs. On the other hand, there is concern about the budget – will the money invested in research pay off? In addition, there is the time factor – research and analysis of results are time-consuming.
In this article, I will convince you that research gives clients and designers a safe space to explore phenomena, look for solutions, and test them, so it is worth investing in them. I will also explain what the role of the designer in research is and why it is essential in the process of finding a balance between the functionality and attractiveness of the product.
“Research can have the same effect as a swimming pool for children. The sense of security and confidence it gives allows for more adventurous adventures: you can push yourself off the edge of the pool and splash with joy to try new things.” wrote Tom Wood in the article Design research and creativity, Fool Proof https://www.foolproof.co.uk/journal/design-research-and-the-new-creativity/. I invite you to read!
UX in digital products
An excellent digital product must be functional and easy to use. It must also be aesthetic and evoke positive emotions. The designers have a crucial influence on how the user perceives the product. They are responsible for the overall user experience with a given product, i.e., UX (User Experience), as well as ensuring that the project meets business goals and, at the same time, is friendly and attractive to users.
To meet these requirements and know the customer’s needs, the designers must understand the users: their goals, problems, emotions, and motivations. This knowledge is the foundation of the human-centered design process. Let’s explain why research is vital in software development by introducing you to the research methods used by Product Designers.
UX research – What are they, and for what purpose are they conducted?
What is UX research? Perhaps most vividly, it can be described as asking questions and searching for answers. The purpose of the study is to better understand people and the context of product use. It can be carried out at various stages of product development during strategy building in the discovery phase when designers analyze the needs and motivations of users, and later, when the product is tested in the early development phase and designers want to improve it.
Also, already implemented projects are subject to research to monitor and evaluate the existing solutions. Research supports the design process and inspires the creation of many possible solutions.
The basis of UX design is understanding who the users are and what they want. The way to understand is to collect qualitative and quantitative information about the user and the context in which he acts and makes decisions. Research allows developing and documenting an understanding of the world from the user’s point of view. However, it is not enough to have information. It would be best to use it to make good design decisions. This often involves trade-offs between what users expect and the client’s business goals and technological constraints. It also means testing the mindset as you move to the next design stage, colliding your ideas with research findings. In iterative cycles, designers present their solutions to the target user and use feedback to improve the product.
Benefits of conducting UX research
Despite the growing awareness of the critical role of research in product development, it is still perceived as a waste of time money, or a limitation of a creative designer who creates innovative solutions. Research alone is not enough to create a great product, but it has a lot of advantages and benefits:
- Well-conducted and utilized UX research helps to make fact-based design decisions and avoid costly mistakes and mishaps. Risk reduction is probably the most important and most appealing benefit to customers.
- The ability to refer to the results of UX research allows for faster resolution of disagreements in the project team. For example, the statement: “In my opinion, this button is hardly visible,” supported by the research results, in which 3/4 of the respondents had problems finding the button, cuts off further discussions on the legitimacy of introducing the change.
- Research enables the creation of a product tailored to the recipient’s needs, not the solution’s creators. The project team knows perfectly well the business goals, assumptions, and functionalities of the product, which is much more than its future users will ever know. This curse of knowledge effectively limits the possibility of noticing problems that result from the lack of knowledge and user experience.
- Research is fundamental for very specialized products or products intended for narrow audiences. Whether the project team collected users’ needs and verified the proposed solutions directly with them often determines the product’s or solution’s final success or failure.
- In the dynamically changing world of digital technologies, research with users is the primary source of information about what solutions work and what causes difficulties for users.
- UX research helps to make design decisions other than assessing whether a solution is good or bad, and inspires design teams to look for better solutions. In the initial phase of product development, the leading role of research is to generate and develop ideas. We invite the user to the design process by asking open questions. The user can help make the proposed solutions more valuable for him and help develop them. Without research, we cannot assess which of the ideas rejected at the first contact with the client and project stakeholders had a chance to become vital elements of the project solution and create business value.
- User research builds an understanding within the project team and the product developers’ empathy toward their users. This positively impacts the work culture and commitment of the project team.
Research has another invaluable aspect: it creates a safe space for acceptable failure. Errors are part of every design process, and research allows you to test, explore, and nurture new ideas for solutions. It also forces the designer to stop and think. This is an invaluable contribution to product development and a considerable budget savings.
According to a study by Forrester Research, every dollar spent on UX yields $100 in profit. The basis of a well-designed UX is research, which is why it is worth investing in it.
The role of the designer in UX research
The knowledge and experience of the researcher undoubtedly influence the quality of the insights, but as in any other case, user research can be carried out at different skill levels. In many organizations, the UX Researcher specialization has emerged. This role collects and analyzes information about the user’s needs and experiences. Often, however, it is the designers who do the research.
At Synergy Codes, we know the importance of UX research in the design process and do not have a UX Researcher. That is why we ensure that our Product Designers have the knowledge and skills to conduct qualitative UX research for our clients. Designers choose the right tools, prepare scenarios, and perform the research process. Then they process the collected information – interpreting the research results and translating them into specific conclusions. Thanks to this, they can recommend concepts of solutions or functionalities based on facts, not only on assumptions and experience.
Designers stand on the border between the world of design and the world of the user. They are the link between them. Research helps them discover patterns in user behavior and the causes of problems. This is a solid foundation for the team to build the product and produce solutions that meet users’ needs.