All aspects of a web design process and web product development revolve around keeping the user at the center of all decisions made during the process. User research is, therefore, essential in starting and working through a UX journey. The goal of any successful design is to be able to address the users’ problems. This cannot be done without understanding these problems at their most basic level, which requires understanding who the users are, their needs, and their motivations. These discoveries are made through user research, which leverages tools to acquire information via quantitative and qualitative methods.
Quantifiable aspects are studied using tools that can measure data points that can be derived from statistical evaluations such as experiments and surveys. Qualitative methods probe more deeply into how user experience differs between user groups, such as through user tests and interviews.
Which methods are used to then focus on and make design decisions based on can undoubtedly vary? There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach here. Time constraints, the nature of the product or service offered, system maturity, and outstanding concerns all play into these decisions. The methods often depend on what cycle the process is in, as different stages may be optimally served by various measurable means.
User research typically begins before the start of the design project through interviews with people who usually interact with the particular design type. By gathering perspectives from the intended target audience, data can be collected at the project’s inception to help dictate its direction.
As the project moves forward, it is also essential to acquire user opinions and contributions to help it move in the most optimal direction. This is most effectively done by involving users in the design process by speaking to them about how they will use your design and what pain points your particular project can help address right from the start.
Here are a few helpful tips about effectively approaching and leveraging user research.
Designers put the product out there, but their interaction with actual users is very minimal. Therefore, user experience design companies need to turn to user-facing personnel to address any issues or know what areas need enhancement based on user needs and motivations. No one has as much awareness of user grievances as those in customer service departments and helps centers. For this reason, many customer service calls are logged and recorded. If this is done, designers can inquire about having access to these user interactions to make the best design decisions moving forward to address user concerns.
Suppose such logs are not kept or are not accessible. In that case, the next best thing is to speak to customer service team members who can communicate many of the common complaints or areas lacking in user-desired functionality. These customer service interviews should be studied and used to list the common (and not so common) user complaints about the design. This, in turn, can be used to enhance and update the design.
It is essential to keep in mind that most people who contact help centers are doing so because they are dissatisfied with or are confused by the product, so the feedback received will be overwhelmingly negative when acquiring information from these sources. However, the logs of these interactions are still essential to helping designers make necessary improvements. These are especially helpful at highlighting at which point in the user’s journey the negative experiences occur and any business practices or policies that degrade the user experience.
One of the most helpful places to derive necessary information from users is through reading app reviews. Users often leave reviews on app pages of the Apple Store or the Google Play Store. This can be a treasure trove in revealing the design’s shortcomings. Still, the key is not to be overwhelmed by the rating but rather to contextualize the given rating with the content of the user’s current review verbiage.
There is a significant difference between a user hopeful of functionality that does not exist or an improvement to one who does, from the user who is simply dissatisfied with the product overall. The content in the reviews is typically very revealing as far as those who are simply there to trash the brand in favor of competitors from those who like the product but wish for certain improvements.
Another vital point to keep in mind is that users are driven to leave reviews primarily based on the emotional response to the product. While reviews can be biased, the fact that a user elicited enough emotion in the product to leave a review, regardless of whether it was a positive or a negative one, means that there is value in considering what the user does have to say.
Looking at the overall broad reaction, however, is generally not practically helpful. There are particular areas that designers want to look for. These include comments or questions about user wishes, confusions with the UI, instability encountered with particular features, product or app benefits from a more robust tutorial to alleviate confusion, or is there a great feature that is too buried in the product to be fully appreciated that perhaps should be showcased more.
Finally, consider that it is essential to review feedback from various platforms separately. Those reviews relevant to the IOS platform may not be concerned to the Android users and vice-versa.
A great source of valuable user feedback information is the ‘Contact Us’ form available on most sites to solicit user feedback. Most users leverage this functionality to complain about dissatisfaction with a place or an app. Customers typically use this method to point out confusing parts of a site’s design and dissatisfactory or counterintuitive features.
If a brand does not possess the ability to garner user information, it is essential to include a method by which such user contact can be made. Therefore, it is essential to have a featured place at the site with a contact form that allows feedback to be relayed from the user based on their experiences and concerns. It is also essential to employ a person whose primary responsibility will be to manage the collected information and respond to user concerns.
If a product or brand is a market novice, there may not be sufficient user research data to operate with. But other brands that are not new to the field may have quite a bit to teach a newcomer to the realm. For this reason, it’s crucial to acquire information and opinions of how users feel about your competition’s products. Evaluating reviews of the bigger competitors in the industry can highlight their shortcomings. You can approach your product’s design to ensure that you do not repeat the same mistakes.
Regardless of what point in the design or development process you are at, talking to your users is essential. Testing designs and stakeholder notes are crucial, but hardly any of that is a substitute for the value of user feedback. After all, the user is at the center of any design worth its salt, so basing UX research on user insights is pivotal. Always remember that UX research with user involvement is not accurate UX research.