The field of UX design has been one of the moving forces in the digital world for some time now. It's based on providing good experiences that, in turn, keep users loyal to a given brand or product.
Picture it this way: Without UX research, start-ups and founders are simply shooting without aim. They don’t know who their target audience is, and even if they have some idea, they still don’t know how to approach them.
UX research focuses on exactly that. It is the most accurate and effective way to answer the challenging questions that arise when you try to design a product. According to Paul Boag, a digital consultant, “To be a great designer, you need to look a little deeper into how people think and act.”
What Does a UX Researcher Do?
The UX designer role goes beyond just making a nice color palette for your website or app. In fact, not every UX designer can work as a UX researcher. The latter requires a certain skill set that allows the professional to perform the necessary research.
The work of a UX researcher reveals what your target user needs from your brand and your products. This can only be achieved by exploring consumer motivation and behavior, conducting deep research, and working alongside your product developers when developing new products or features.
If and when you decide to hire a UX designer and a researcher, you can expect them to use the appropriate set of research techniques based on your project’s parameters, needs, and constraints.
UXmatters distinguished between two types of research performed by a researcher: generative and competitive. Generative user research is essential and encompasses a deep phase of discovery. During this research, an expert will use various techniques to analyze the user’s needs, motivations, and behaviors — all to contribute insights and context to your product design and strategy.
The UX best practices for competitive analysis include focus groups, card sorting, journey mapping, contextual inquiry, participatory design, personas and scenarios creation, and JAD sessions. In terms of evaluative methods, experts use design critiques, A/B testing, usability testing, and eye tracking.
Importance of User Research
User research is a strong and concise foundation for the strategy upon which you build your digital product or brand. Unless you’ve spent years practicing and learning the fundamentals of UI design and UX design, you probably don’t know the ropes yet.
There’s no reason to despair.
Certain professionals have the skills, means, and experience to perform the much-needed research to improve your digital product. They’ll get you the data that will strengthen your design decisions and help you identify how to market your products.
User research can show you what groups of people would use your services and products, as well as how.
When you choose to launch a new product, you need to know who would be willing to purchase it. If there’s an improved version that you’ve been working on, you need to know who wanted those improvements in the first place, as well as how to present them to those people.
The debate over whether you should use a UX researcher for your product and brand is argued by many. In fact, just deciding whether to hire a research specialist or a UX generalist has become controversial.
Many startups and small businesses that function on a limited budget choose to hire a single UX person, or someone who knows a bit of everything. Due to financial constraints, chances are that you’ve been tempted to find a jack-of-all-trades, a person who will conduct your research, code, design, and write copy.
If this is what you’re thinking, it is the wrong approach.
It’s often difficult for people to understand the effect that UX research has on a new business’s strategy. Will hiring a UX researcher even pay off? Can’t anyone else do this?
These are just a few of the questions that start-ups and developers may ask. They show that many people believe that UX research is a waste of money and time.
What you probably don’t know is that investing in UX research will actually save you money in the long run.
Based on everything you’ve learned about UX research, can you afford not to have a professional on your team? Research has a tremendous impact on product strategy, starting from the very beginning. The work of a UX researcher is evident in the conception of the product idea and moves to the delivery of that same product.
If you want your developers to create an attractive product, they need to present value. That can only be accomplished with research.
What Happens If You Skip UX Research
Think of user research as the starting point, the initial stage of the product design cycle. None of the things you invested in your business will pay off if you make something that people don’t want to use. Your investments, time, and team’s work will be for naught or yield very little.
User research is what precedes the strategy of your business. It helps you eliminate assumptions from the process. With that kind of data ready and in front of you, your business can move the new products to the market, make changes if necessary, and iterate on the design.
If you choose to skip this stage because of financial constraints, time restrictions, or any other reason, it will probably have bad repercussions for your start-up. How do you expect to create and market a product if you don’t know what type of problem it will solve for those who buy it?
Here is what this means in layman’s terms:
A company that doesn’t invest money or time in user research starts with an idea and a goal, just like any other company. But because they didn’t take the time to realize what problems their users might face when they use the product, the company eventually fails.
It doesn’t matter how great their idea was or how qualified their developers were. By avoiding UX research as part of the process, you’re depriving the company of the following benefits:
- Enabling your developers to create valuable and easy-to-use designs.
- Making it easy for the users to learn how your product works.
- Helping you understand the ROI.
- Ensuring smooth functioning of the product, eliminating errors for your users.
- Validating the hypotheses you’ve previously set.
- Allowing you to learn about your competition’s strategies, products, and design.
Why You Need a Trained UX Researcher
We all want our business to grow. To make this happen, you need to hire a formally trained UX researcher. To the casual observer, this is a task that anyone can complete, as long as they have basic research skills. But the role of a UX researcher goes beyond just performing basic research.
Essentially, research is more than just finding the answers to questions or asking the questions of people.
A researcher will meet with product owners, stakeholders, and others to find out certain objectives and goals. Then, they’ll craft the right research questions that will uncover the needs, demands, motivations, and pain points of users. While asking those questions, the researcher will read the user’s behavior, subtle expressions, body language, and actions. This goes beyond just listening or taking notes.
The next phase will comprise of analysis of the same data. This goes deep in order to determine patterns and trends. It all comes down to observation, phrasing, and nuance.
To possess this skill, one must have training and experience. You can only find this in a professional UX researcher.
Here are characteristics that qualified UX researchers possess:
1. Understanding of the research methods
Once faced with your project and your goals, the researcher will decide what research method to use. Will they go with qualitative or quantitative methods? Will they combine the two?
Different research methods have different pros and cons. There isn’t a combination of methods that is universal to all start-ups and companies. It’s the job of the UX researcher to determine the best research methods for your business.
To know this, the expert needs formal research training, which goes beyond knowing UX design fundamentals.
2. Knowing how to uncover pain points, motivations, and needs
Asking people what they want and need works — but only in some cases. You can’t just rush over to people and ask them to tell you their underlying needs. In many cases, they don’t even realize what they need themselves.
This is why a UX researcher is well versed in the process of forming a series of questions that uncover pain points, needs, and motivations. It’s similar to the work of doctors. You don’t give the patient the task of diagnosing themselves. You ask them questions and make the diagnosis by using your expertise.
3. Having an unbiased point of view
An expert researcher is neutral and unbiased. Unlike developers and business owners, researchers aren’t familiar with the designs on an intimate level. These people are trained listeners that will fill in the gaps and ask the right questions. They avoid assumptions and uncover underlying needs, something that’s hard to achieve if you’re attached to the product.
UX Researcher and Developers: How Can They Work Together?
The user experience expert, designer, or researcher and the developers see things differently. There’s nothing odd or unexpected about this.
According to Dzone, it’s a result of a cultural shift in how we interface. The earlier term known as “usability engineer” turned into “UX designer”, but it also indicated a shift from science based on engineering to the art of design. This brought different specializations, which now moves developers and designers further apart, even when they work on the same project.
But the two aren’t that separate. Developers and UX experts each have their own “role in the game.” When a UX designer, UX researcher, and developer work together, they can do wonders to enrich the customer experience.
It’s somewhat of a codependent relationship. The UX designer first needs the research from the UX researcher to be able to plan and predict the project and enrich the user experience. Similarly, the developer doesn’t have access to the designs, wireframes, and prototypes that they need to implement in the creation of the app. Finally, without the work of a developer, a UX expert can’t know the results of their research and designs, predict accurate timelines, or define realistic expectations about the product.
In other words, these forces joined together can eliminate hiccups in the project.
Let me explain why: Communication between UX experts and developers is crucial in order to find a solution to an idea that’s not easy to implement.
To understand their user’s behavior, developers have to implement a series of code and event trackers. If this is communicated in a clear manner, it makes the job meaningful and interesting. Developers’ feedback often yields alternative options that the researchers might not have thought of.
When they join forces, you don’t have to worry that the design won’t work with the target audience. The UX researcher gives the direction and provides a base adapted to the user. Then, the UX designer comes up with the features that will make for a clean and attractive design. Thanks to the skills of the developer, they’ll put this into action and make it real. Working together is not only time-efficient, but it also prevents any backtracking.
UX researchers are an indispensable component of any product team. A skilled professional will allow you to gather valuable insight into your customers’ pain points, motivations, and needs.
As a result, this will enable you to make informed decisions about your product’s features. This is important because it provides you with a more definite action plan, rather than simply guessing, which often results in more time and money spent on addressing issues that could have been avoided.