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We recently hosted a webinar about UX research in an agency setting with Aiden Bordner, co-founder and Principal Designer at Parade, an experience design firm. Here are 5 top takeaways from the webinar:
Both large and small agencies encounter challenges with recommending UX research to clients. This stems from a combination of agency culture and perception of costs. Agencies tend to have a strong focus on developing close relationships with clients. As a result, it’s often difficult for both teams and clients to hand off research responsibilities to a third party or even a dedicated, in-house researcher. Additionally, there’s a perception that the cost of conducting UX research is high. Because many agencies rely on more senior members to manage relationships, the only staff with the capacity to conduct research tends to be junior. And coincidentally, junior researchers often have limited access to clients, which can hamper research attempt. Smaller agencies are also restricted by smaller staffs and a general hesitation to outsource research.
In many cases, agencies don’t have a lot of firsthand experience conducting research. This is especially true for smaller agencies, where staff tends to be heavily weighted toward principals, rather than junior staff who are more likely to be tasked with conducting research. Additionally, many agency talent has startup backgrounds working within product companies that have dedicated research teams. As a result, few have ever gone through the detailed process of setting up and conducting a study, start to finish. That means folks that have never conducted a research study, let alone written or moderated one, are now faced with managing all these tasks on their own, which is understandably intimidating.
One of the best ways to encourage UX research early and often is to make it part of the process. Bordner suggests making UX research a built-in, necessary part of your scope. This helps manage expectations and trains clients to rely on user-generated feedback for qualitative insights. He suggests that for every few weeks of design, some validation through user feedback needs to occur. This prevents discovery of issues at the 11th hour when it’s much harder to make changes. Incorporating more frequent UX research also makes each of those studies more lightweight and easier to digest, rather than conducting a massive study at the end of a project.
Bordner also points out an important distinction between market research and UX research. He notes that agencies often work with marketing clients that are unfamiliar with UX research, but are well-versed in market research. As a result, there can be a bit of a learning curve when it comes to informing them of the differences between the two, and why UX research is an important component of your strategy.
Agency clients are typically focused on performance metrics and the quantitative side of things, Borden says. He notes that clients often want to quantify qualitative results, which isn’t necessarily the best way to measure behavioral responses to a design. Borden suggests setting expectations early that UX research can’t always be measured in the same way as other research methods. This will help steer clients away from falsely quantifying qualitative results, and missing the underlying messages the research uncovers.
If you’d like to hear more of Aiden’s great advice on conducting UX research at an agency, tune into the on-demand webinar! Watch now