Honestly, if you’re anywhere close to starting your own business, changing up your product or head down in the development of some new app, research should be your biggest endeavor.
Because designing anything successful takes a massive understanding of your customer or user.
Not just what they buy or how much they spend on average for anything. You should know a lot more.
One thing I’ve been learning over the past few weeks is that research can make or break a product or business from day 1.
Where does research start?
If you’ve ever researched anything, you usually start with Google. Whether you’re looking for the opening hours of your neighbourhood Starbucks or the answer to how dogs smile, you’ve started online.
With UX design, it’s a little different.
With UX design, you’re not simply interested in the answer to the question, but the why behind all those questions and answers.
You know… the WWWWWH — who, what, where, when, why and how.
But in applying yourself to sound research in UX, it’s good to follow a few approaches to make sure the research in your process actually continues to focus on your user. And honestly, that’s one of the most difficult things for any business owner or corporation.
An Example-based Approach
Do you enjoy people-watching? It’s a past time I’ve developed over the years living in Paris, where I’d sit at a local cafe and watch people walk by. It’s quite intriguing watching how other people converse, behave and act when strolling with their best friend or their lover.
Example-based research is pretty much the same. Rather than walking people as they parade past, you observe people using your product or something similar. You observe how they talk, think, and act when confronted with tasks and challenges. You learn directly from the source, without all the inferencing and guessing.
This research approach makes UX design what it is — a highly successful product-building approach, centred on the user.
A Research-based Approach
Another research approach I’ve discovered (and one that I’ve practised over the course of my lifetime) is research.
Remember the google search thing I talked about? Well, yea… this is it. This approach grounds itself in articles, text, video and summaries of accounts of others, indirect online conversations of customer suffering from the same thing, and other means of digging up relevant dirt. Relevant is, of course, the keyword here. If the research you do isn’t relevant to the user problem you’re looking for, it’s time to hit the ‘reset’ button.
This research also helps UX designers formulate assumptions with competitor products, past user experiences and alternate tried or tested solutions of the past and present. It’s good to get this part of the process done before beginning your product development stage.
An Attitudinal Approach
We all have opinions. We all have beliefs. Our values guide how we see the word, what we do in the world and why we do it.
Understanding your user’s attitudes toward certain concepts helps you to unlock the gate to their internal psyche. The question of “why” they do certain things become more evident.
In UX design, knowing your user’s attitude and beliefs can help you overcome major flaws in your design and your approach.
A Behavioral Approach
It’s not what you say. It’s what you do.
If this statement rings true, then it’s the easiest and simplest way to find out how your customer really uses your product or service. Yes, this approach is similar to the example-based approach, where you’re putting your customer in charge of your product.
Analyze their behavior. Look at what they do when confronted with a challenge. Are they doing what they said they would? Are they doing something completely different?
Understanding how your target behaves when faced with their problems or when completing a task is a surefire way to avoid the pitfalls of product development teams who’ve failed at launch.
Context of Use
I’ve included the context of use here because it’s the most relevant way to understand all the above.
Whether you research based on observation or research, or decide to understand your user attitudes or behaviors, if you’re doing any out of context, you’re going to miss the mark.
Context if use is important because it allows you to accurately understand the scenario and situation your users may use or encounter problems they need to be solved.
Good user research is the backbone of any good UX design or product development project. It’s the navigational compass that keeps you on course toward solving your user’s most pressing problems.
Without it, we’re all dead in the water really.