Prioritizing UX testing according to your organization's risk tolerance

By UserTesting | January 4, 2024
Team members discussing a UX testing roadmap.

Every user-centered organization must understand the value of usability testing. It provides invaluable insights into users' interactions with your products and services. But with limited resources, you can't test everything. That's why prioritizing UX testing initiatives based on your organization's risk tolerance is key.

Risk tolerance is the level of risk your organization is willing to take when developing products and features. Startups tend to have a higher risk tolerance, while established enterprises often play it safer. You must align your testing efforts to match this appetite for risk. 

Why prioritize UX testing?

Prioritizing UX testing in the design process reduces risk in several key ways. First, it validates assumptions and uncovers usability issues early when they’re most accessible and cost-effective. Fixing a usability flaw late in development could delay deadlines by weeks or necessitate costly product redesigns. Strategically testing user flows early allows you to promptly identify and fix pain points.

Second, UX testing surfaces insights that make products more useful, usable, and desirable to customers. It directly translates to higher conversion rates, lower dropout rates, and faster user onboarding. When you align research and testing initiatives with strategic business goals, you ensure every study delivers maximum value.

Finally, effective prioritization helps you accelerate time-to-market while mitigating risk for product launches. When market conditions create fierce competition for new solutions, being first in solving a major pain point wins. Prioritizing usability testing early in the design process helps you validate product direction quickly so you can double down on what works.

Understanding your organization's risk tolerance

To know how to prioritize UX testing, you must first understand your organization's appetite for risk-taking. Risk tolerance considers your current market position, cash reserves, investor expectations, and management philosophy.

For example, early-stage startups often embrace a "move fast and break things" ethos. With limited runway, these organizations take more significant risks in hopes of disrupting incumbents. In contrast, established enterprises focus on quality and reputational risk. They avoid fast-following competitors and wait patiently for dominant and vetted designs to emerge.

To determine your organization's risk tolerance, start by interviewing stakeholders and reviewing past product decisions. Look for patterns that reveal comfort with certainty. Additionally, factor in metrics like burn rate, which signal the ability to absorb potential losses from failed initiatives. Plot major product launches and pivots on a timeline—more points indicate greater openness to experimentation.

With a firm grasp of the risk tolerance context, you can optimally prioritize usability testing to match business goals. Conservative organizations require maximum validation before moving forward, while aggressive organizations may build minimum viable products (MVPs) with limited testing. In all cases, align UX testing with your organization's ability to handle uncertainty.

How to prioritize your research initiatives

You can prioritize your UX research initiatives by asking relevant questions to identify high-risk areas and the biggest opportunities. Effective UX research questions provide focus and structure. They distill complexity into simple frameworks for decision-making. Here are five UX research questions to help prioritize efforts:

  1. Are the research objectives related to a core business KPI? Any research tied to big-picture metrics like conversion rate, retention, or engagement should take priority. Findings here offer the greatest business impact.
  2. Will study findings significantly influence a majority of users? Focus first on experiences affecting a large number of users versus niche scenarios. These findings can inform decisions across the ecosystem.
  3. Are impacted users a high priority for the business? Certain user segments may be more closely tied to revenue. Their needs take precedence over other groups.
  4. Will leadership directly use research insights to guide strategy? Research that ties directly to roadmap priorities has outsized influence and value.
  5. Are there firm deadlines or windows of opportunity? Timing may dictate urgency over other factors. Inflexible timelines mean now or never. Flexible initiatives can slide until you address higher risks.

Apply these criteria to identify your top UX research and usability testing priorities. Then, layer on considerations around resourcing, scheduling, and business goals to shape a high-level roadmap. 

You must focus on rapid validation for riskier directions and comprehensive quantitative studies on established flows. This tailored, data-backed approach aligns UX initiatives with your organization's risk appetite.

Prioritization methods for UX testing roadmap

With many potential UX testing ideas and limited resources, you need an objective system to prioritize initiatives. Applying structured frameworks removes subjective bias from roadmap planning. Consider these five methods to build a usability testing roadmap aligned with your organization's risk tolerance:

Impact-effort matrix

The impact-effort matrix evaluates initiatives on two axes: effort required and potential business impact. Possible quadrants include Quick Wins, Big Bets, Money Pits, and Fill-Ins. 

High-impact, low-effort items become "quick wins" for fast payoff. High-effort initiatives with less clear value drop down the list until validated. This method is especially useful for agile teams, enabling collaboration and rapid prioritization.

Feasibility, desirability, and viability scorecard

This Venn diagram-like approach developed by IDEO ranks ideas on three criteria:

  • Feasibility (Can this be built?)
  • Desirability (How much do users want this?) 
  • Viability (Does this align with business goals?)

Feasibility considers technical implementation complexity, while desirability rates expected user adoption and satisfaction. Meanwhile, viability measures alignment with business goals. 

This method is highly customizable. You can add columns that best suit your particular use case. For example, you can add metrics like speed, cost, and user interface if they are most relevant to your priorities.

RICE method

Developed by Intercom, the RICE methodology scores ideas on four factors: reach, impact, confidence, and effort using numeric scoring. 

Reach measures target population, the impact looks at the value created, confidence speaks to evidence quality, and effort evaluates resources needed. This method delivers a data-driven quantitative approach to prioritization. 

MoSCoW analysis

MoSCoW analysis takes a blunt, priority-focused approach. It divides potential items into four buckets according to their importance:

  • Must Have
  • Should Have
  • Could Have
  • Will Not Have 

MoSCoW enables you to identify the most critical areas. For example, a target project fails if it doesn't meet the "Must Haves," which are non-negotiable. The "Should Haves" are important but not vital. "Could Haves" are desirable but unnecessary, and "Will Not Have" components are not a priority.

It works best when you clearly define the time frame for your project, but it demands discipline to keep everything from piling up in the "Must-Have" category.

Kano model

Kano analysis plots features on a 2X2 grid segmented by user satisfaction versus feature implementation. Testing that delights users takes priority over basic features. This approach ensures your roadmap emphasizes user expectations, not just utility.

Overall, prioritizing your research initiatives objectively ensures confidence that they meet business needs. It also helps keep users at the forefront of your initiatives.

Enhance your UX testing processes with UserTesting

Aligning UX testing efforts with your organization's risk tolerance enables smarter experimentation and design choices. Targeted, priority-based user research asks the right questions early, helping your product team validate concepts quickly. It thus reduces costly late-stage changes.

At UserTesting, our Human Insight Platform allows you to combine quantitative data and human insight to make informed product decisions. With access to the world's largest and most diverse pool of test participants, you can quickly validate design direction and create unmatched user experiences. 

Consult with us today to experience the power of human insight and take the guesswork out of product development.

What's next

In this article, let's walk through tips and best practices to set you up to make a strong case for getting a human insight budget whether you're a manager or an individual contributor. 

About the author(s)

With UserTesting’s on-demand platform, you uncover ‘the why’ behind customer interactions. In just a few hours, you can capture the critical human insights you need to confidently deliver what your customers want and expect.