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It’s not UX if you’re not doing Research

UX is all about solving someone’s problem

User experience can not exist without users. According to UX Experts, Norman and Nielsen, a UX’s primary goal is to create easy-to-use products that users want and need. How could users not be involved in the process? Conducting preliminary research with your users can be the first step you take. It will enable you to make complex decisions and create interfaces that are useful and appreciated by your users!

To answer their needs, you can conduct different types of research.

Which type to choose depends on two things: 1) the questions you need answers to 2) the UX process stage you are at. Just remember that in no case can the user be left out.

When to conduct research?

You can conduct research at nearly every stage of the UX process.

Research: User research is particularly important at this stage to gather insight on your user’s problem, need and behavioural pattern.

Design: Usability testing is one of the multiple ways to check if the solution you bring is an effective way to solve the problem.

Build: Testing the real product with users.

The benefits of conducting Research

Track improvement: Constant user research gives you data to see your improvement.

You won’t have to rework:Continuous test designs enables you to make changes early in the development cycle.

Take data driven product and design decisions: Creating user interface can lead to complex decision making. You can justify your decisions with data and insight.

Resolve internal design debates & build consensus: Sometimes the best way to end a meeting where assumptions are being made is to state, “Let’s test it!”. By the same occasion designers and stakeholders keep committed to the same goals.

How to make sure you conduct great user research

Define the problem you are trying to solve: Designing interfaces is fun but it should come after you know why you are building. “Fall in love with the problem, not the solution”- Richard Bagdonas.

Define your audience: Who are you building for? A product cannot be designed for everyone, if so, it will work for no one.

Talk to your users: If you design based on your intuition or experience chances are you won’t reply to the users’ need. Be careful is you assume you already know the users or if you think you are familiar with them as it can lead to generalisations. Instead, talk to them, find out how they feel, act, and think. Pay attention to your users, it’s for them that you are designing.

Define users’ goal: What do users’ want to achieve? Answering this question will enable you to craft a solution that articulates your users’ goals and take research-driven design decisions.

Test with your users: “Past design success does not replace UX research” - Micah Bowers. If it worked before it does not mean it will work again and for your specific population. Test if the solution you offer is effective for your users.

Use the UX methods: There are many methods you can use such as: user interviews, usability tests, personas, scenarios, card sorts, affinity diagrams, concept models, sketches, flow diagrams, sitemaps, wireframes, prototypes, web analytics, A/B tests etc…

“User research puts people to the center of attention where they’ve always belonged.”- Randolph Duke II, Senior Research & Design Strategist at Cantina

Use case

Context: In 1876, Heinz introduced tomato ketchup. The glass bottle packaging nearly stayed the same for more than a century. The company had no plan to change the design, but they wanted to understand how the product was consumed at home. Therefore, they went into people’s home and observed them use the product.

Research: They found out many things. Firstly, their biggest consumers were children (60%). Secondly, they saw how hard it was to let the last drop of ketchup out of the bottle. Additionally, their biggest consumers, children, could not access the bottle themselves as the bottle was made of glass and parents judged it to be too dangerous. Hence, the consumption level was restricted.

The solution: The packaging team came up with the EZ Squirt Bottle, made of plastic. Easy to squeeze and lighter to hold. The consumption increased by 12%.

They did not stop there. Heinz continued to observe their clients and realised that they would store the bottle upside down to get the last bits of Ketchup to come down. So, Heinz changed the bottle orientation. Thanks to them loads of products now exist upside down.

Take home messages:

  • Heinz did not redesign the bottle for fun but according to user research. The best solution come when design decisions are based on user research.

  • The solution solved a genuine problem.

  • Different research led to different answers. Observational research gives different insight than interviews and focus groups.


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