With a limited budget and a laundry list of things to get done when operating a startup, user experience (UX) design (let alone UX research) can often be the last thing on the minds of entrepreneurs. However, companies today realize that in order to remain competitive, they need to invest in user experience. Moreover, great UX is no longer a nice-to-have, but a key differentiator between a new startup and its more advanced competition.
When working with startups though, we’ve found that user research is often one of the most overlooked skillsets when recruiting and hiring for open positions. Nevertheless, user research is fundamental to building products that are centered around people.
As user experience research becomes more commonplace in organizations big and small, its definitions and applications have naturally evolved. This means that UX can mean something a little different depending on who you’re talking to.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation, UX research is the systematic investigation of users and their requirements in order to add context and insight into the process of designing the user experience. Simply, UX research uncovers human needs in order to build better product experiences.
When done well, thoroughly, and at the right times, UX research can have a massive business impact. Quite literally, it can mean the difference between executing a user-centric design from the start and having to rework the designed product because it doesn’t resonate with the target audience.
Remember, you are not your user—despite how well you may think you know them. Often times, product and design teams who don’t leverage UX research fall into the trap of false-consensus bias. This is the cognitive bias whereby people tend to overestimate the extent to which their own opinions, beliefs, preferences, and habits are normal and typical of others. This can be troubling when designing products. More often than not, the way you may use your product is vastly different than the intended user’s experience.
Those of us who conceptualize, design, build, market, and support products can’t always see the full spectrum of experiences that their work touches. One of the best ways to gain that perspective is through research, and going directly to the source.
These insights can be gathered in a variety of ways, including diary studies, surveys, usability testing, and interviews. Through methods like these, UX researchers are able to gather the valuable human insight necessary to develop the empathy required to build products that are truly designed with the customer in mind.
In today’s world where quantitative analysis and data have been the focus, mastering the art of qualitative research is more crucial than ever before. Research can be complex and extremely challenging when left in the hands of those who don’t fully understand how to execute it. The next time you’re posting a position for your startup, consider the value a UX researcher can provide. Understanding your users wants and needs cannot be ignored.