Why Many Companies Neglect To Do User Research
Often, we don't understand what the key action we'd better do. Or we think that we are sure on something, but our guts send us a signal that this is wrong. The traditional way of doing business is no longer changes the market in a good way. Especially if we talk about digital products.
Doing user research is like eating healthy food, exercising, and getting an annual checkup. Almost everyone thinks that it's good to do these things, but many people fail to do them.
Companies have created products for many years without doing user research. Long story short, some of them are conservative about their processes. It's hard to add this important layer into design and development.
The most common problem is that project teams have a tendency to complete projects successfully, on time, and on a budget. Whether final result is usable, useful, or enjoyable often doesn't matter. They aim for the launch of a new feature or an update. After the update, they are starting getting feedback. And plan new updates. This a the reality of the creative process for many companies.
But what if the direction of an update is wrong from the beginning? What if it's getting worth and worth every iteration?
User research could fix the direction somewhere at the beginning. It helps to avoid doing big mistakes in terms of time and budget that are very valuable for people who manage projects.
Basically, User Research helps reducing risks to fail on the way to the target.
What we can do is to act bit by bit. Making small user research in cases where it's possible. We just need to try find whenever information is possible that would be helpful in the next design phase. Don't forget to show it to your product team.
Tangible vs Intangible
User research sounds like a good idea to most people, but it's hard to see tangible results from it. Unlike design and development, which produce tangible artifacts that people can see and use, the product of user research is information that either researcher present or team members must consume.
Basically, the result of it can look like a bunch of paper or a PDF report. Somehow, people connect this to bureaucracy and they want to skip it and start doing a real job. But it's the same as if, for example, spaceman will skip all the instructions and studies and will do a landing on Mars on his own. Works for movies, but not for real life and real obstacles.
While usability testing provides specific information about the usability of the user interface you're testing, it doesn't give you much information about the users and their needs. You don't learn as much in-depth information about users as you do when you visit people and observe them performing their tasks in their natural context.
What we can do it is to try see a product with users eyes. Basic interviews can help with this. We can talk about things that users struggle with or how are they thinking in terms of solving a certain task or several tasks at a time. This kind of conversations will give us an understanding for whom we are creating product. Why people will use or using it? What can be better?
A basic analysis helps understand a basic behavior, pain points that users have using a product. Tools that have features like Heat map, Clicks map, Scroll map gives us more practical information about our users. Since, we can't directly impact on their behavior or make them answer on our questions or sharing opinions. They interact with a product one on one and it's completely different analysis.
However, you can see what people are doing, but you don't understand why. You can't read thoughts through let's say Google Analytics. It's not clear why they don't click on a thing that I want them to click or why they are dropping off. What's keeping people from going some flows, etc.
Understanding users gives us more full picture and we can answer on our questions.
Asking The Right Questions
Don't ask users for solutions. They don't know them or even if they know then it can be bad for a product or even for themselves. There is a chance that you users don't tech world as you know and their solutions will not be able to help your product. Ask for a problem, not for an advice.
Usually people are pretty bad at predicting behaviors. They don't usually know what they will do in a certain situation.
The right way of asking questions is to ask about problems and struggles that they have. Ask about present and the past, not about future.
The most basic set of questions is:
- Can they do it? What is a product for?
- Can they understand it?
- Can they discover features?
- Can they configure a product for their needs?
Problems That Can Be Before Starting User Research
- Having only a vague definition of who the users are.
- Having an overly specific definition of who the users are, which makes them difficult to find.
- Not being allowed to contact users.
- Not knowing where to find the users or how to reach them.
- Needing participants who are geographically dispersed and would require a lot of time and travel expense to visit.
Helps to discover would they use it.
- Who? What? Where? When? How?
- What are they trying to accomplish?
- What goals and needs, struggles, pain points?
Ask questions below, listen to answers and learn patterns that people have.
- What are their past experience?
- How are they do these things now?
- How they are thinking about these things now?
- What barriers users have from using a product?
- What are pros and cons of different design solutions?
- What are pros and cons of competitors?
- What are they using at the moment? What features are most important?
- Can users discover feature x?
- Are users able to successfully complete primary tasks?
- Do users understand x?
Observing And Taking Notes
Record the screen while someone using a product. Capture everything. After each session makes highlights. Like this thing works and this thing doesn't work. Basically, it should be in some form of a report with feature and how different people use them. What are they struggle with? What is good for them? And other notes like observations. After that check in with everybody to understand what you can to fix in the next update.
The User Research is a valuable part of work and the more it structured and organized the better your product will be. It takes time and efforts, but worth to do.
Starting from small and doing basic studies is a huge improvement.
Do not forget to move iteratively. Do something and make studies by testing it on users or potential users. Do not involve yourself only in studies or only in making a product. Make something, test then improve.
If we think about probability theory then we will understand that doing studies between development sessions will increase a probability of achieving success by a product. So using this will make your project better anyway.
Of course, you spend time that you could spend on development on these studies. However, you can be right or you can be successful. So, research can be much more effective than launching a new fancy feature that in the real world can be not that important as a user-friendly core of the product.
You can feed your users with new features and promises for the future, but it will lead you to frustration and you easily can lose the direction. Which means you build something, but nothing specific.
Thank you for reading,