People always quote Steve Jobs or Henry Ford when it comes to understanding the user. Jobs famously said that consumers don’t know what they want until you show it to them. Ford said that if you ask people what they wanted, they would say they wanted a faster horse.
Both men were great visionaries. Visionaries are a rare breed. Today, if you want to know what your users want or what they need you to get inside their heads. There is no better way to do that than carrying out user research. This doesn’t just apply to automobiles or technology, IT APPLIES TO EVERYTHING!
For this blog, let’s take the example of building a new website or redesigning an old one. Very often people fall into the trap of thinking they understand their customers. The problem we see at Friday Agency time and time again in this new digital era is that companies haven’t kept up with the changing needs of their customers. 5 – 10 years ago you could be forgiven for having a poorly designed website. People were much more forgiving, they didn’t really mind and were well-used to negotiating their way around badly designed websites. At that time there were other more important means to communicate or do business like phone, fax and email etc. Not anymore. Sorry to say it but THE most important way to do business and communicate with your customers today is online and you have to keep up with your competitors in this space or you’re dead. 88% of online consumers will not return to a website if they have a bad experience.
The rapid advancement technology is leaving behind a wasteland of companies (think Kodak, Borders, Toys’R’Us) who failed to innovate or just didn’t ‘get’ the internet. I’m not being overdramatic here. “My corner shop is not going the way of Toys ‘R’ Us”, I hear you say. Eh, your corner shop is probably the most under threat from the internet and particularly threatened by the Goliath that is Amazon. If you’re a retailer, depending on the high street for 100% of your business is no longer an option. For many businesses and for retail businesses, in particular, your model has to include an e-commerce site (clicks n’ mortar) or a decent brochure website or you simply will fail to remain competitive.
But I digress.
What makes your website so important is because, it is for most businesses, your most important marketing tool bar none. Reaching your sales targets depend on the success of your marketing so you need to get it right.
Researching the customer helps us answer the most fundamental questions about them.
- Who are they?
- What do they need?
- What are their goals?
- What context do they buy from us or our competitors?
- How do they currently do things?
- How would they’d like to do them?
User experience (UX) design
What distinguishes a well-designed website and a poorly designed website is the user experience or UX. According to the Neilson Norman Group, The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce websites or apps that are a joy to own and a joy to use.
Every Dollar spent on UX brings in a return of between $2 to $100.
User experience Research — What is it?
User research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. This field of research aims at improving the usability of products by incorporating experimental and observational research methods to guide the design, development, and refinement of a product. User researchers often work alongside designers, engineers, and programmers in all stages of product creation and idealization. User research can be broken down into two areas.
Quantitative user research
This involves gathering data in such as a way that it can be used to provide statistical analysis. It includes surveys, analytics, eye-tracking and A/B testing to name a few.
Qualitative user research
This is a more exploratory method of research and attempts to get a deeper understanding of the user by way of interviews, guerrilla testing or hallway testing, prototyping and task analysis. For more examples of qualitative and quantitative research click here.
To illustrate the use of both methods, take the example of a person’s clothes shopping habits online. Your quantitative research might involve distributing a survey to a large sample of consumers asking them to answer a series of questions like
- How much of their clothing needs are purchased online?
- How often do they buy clothes online?
- What do they buy?
- Where do they buy?
- How much do they spend?
- Do they use mobile or desktop for shopping online?
About 15% of projects are completely abandoned and as much as 50% of developers time is spent on reworking stuff that is totally avoidable if it was designed the correct way.
Qualitative research such as interviews might dig deeper about how and when and the context they user might shop for clothes online and do the following
- Observe the user online and make a typical user journey (the journey from homepage to checkout).
- Recording their movements online and asking them questions as they go.
- Analyse the recorded data and draw some conclusions.
These interviews can reveal the how and why of the online purchase, revealing issues and pain points of the user journey and also what delights the user. Vital information that can be used to build or redesign the clothing retailer’s e-commerce site.
And by the way, you only need 5 people to interview to get an insight into most of the usability problem of your website according to the father of UX, Don Norman. After 5 interviews, you really aren’t going to learn much more. Having carried out usability tests myself, I wholeheartedly agree.
Users have 3 basic expectations from a website
Your website must
- Be user-friendly
- Meet their expectations
- Allow them to accomplish their goals
Good research will feedback to the UX designers what needs to be done to better meet the needs of the users and provide them with the best possible user journey
Benefits of UX research
UX Improvements Save Your Money by Reducing Wasted Development Time
According to Susan Weissman, of Human Factors International about 15% of projects are completely abandoned and as much as 50% of developers time is spent on reworking stuff that is totally avoidable if it was designed the correct way. The cost of correcting work is 100 times more than getting it right from the beginning. How do you avoid this? Design for the user. You can design for the user when you fully understand the user and are willing and able to put them front and centre of everything you do. Having empathy for your users is at the heart of great UX design.
Good UX is great for the bottom line
Those who have had a positive user experience with your app or a website are going to be more likely to stick with your service or products, and even potentially become your brand advocates.
Every Dollar spent on UX brings in a return of between $2 to $100. Now that’s a no-brainer!
Image from Uxplanet.com
Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO once said in a letter to his shareholders “…I think long-term thinking squares the circle. Proactively delighting customers earns trust, which earns more business from those customers, even in new business arenas. Take a long-term view, and the interests of customers and shareholders align.”
This is from the man whose company Amazon holds about 50% of the US e-commerce market and is expected to net a staggering $258 billion in 2018.
Listen to me, you need to listen to your users through user experience research.