With industries from oil and gas to utilities to manufacturing seeking impactful digital and mobile solutions — business stakeholders, including CEOs and product leaders, are increasingly incorporating user experience (UX) into their business or product strategy.
Why? The answer is in the numbers. A staff article recently published by American Genius noted, “every $1 invested in user experience UX yields a $2 to $100 return.”
These are eye-popping figures that have caught the attention of business leaders, with 93 percent of executives placing the improvement of UX as a top strategic priority, according to a report by Forrester Research.
While the big-picture benefits of UX are self-evident for an enterprise mobile or digital application, several myths surrounding the discipline of UX research have resulted in its specific benefits not always being clearly understood by business stakeholders in the larger context of UX strategy. This post is intended to dispel those myths.
While UX research and UX design are often bucketed under UX, there are definitive distinctions between the two disciplines.
With UX research, trained professionals collect or gather information about the user to establish a list of business requirements for a mobile or digital application, while UX design is more focused on using the requirements gathered from UX research to create an effective digital experience for the user. In essence, true UX design cannot exist without proper UX research; and ultimately, it’s the collaboration between UX researchers and UX designers that enable developers and engineers to give an enterprise mobile or digital product the best chance of having a high ranking system usability scale (SUS) score.
Business requirements are defined as activities that help inject value into the organization. Often business analysts are used to help companies define their business requirements because they have the expertise to provide valuable insight into the companies’ processes or systems.
UX researchers mirror the role of a business analyst, but they also bring principles of psychology to the mix when collecting their data – focusing on examining a person’s interactions in the context of their environment.
When developing a mobile or digital solution at the enterprise level, users need to be studied in the context of their work. UX researchers accomplish this goal by conducting contextual inquiries, examining the entire ecosystem within which the user performs his duties, to reveal hidden areas for business improvements. This important intelligence can then be used to shape the business requirements for the design of the app or digital solution — resulting in a more effective final product.
A contextual inquiry will always shed light on previously unforeseen opportunities to streamline user experience. If a company’s mobile or digital solution is created based on assumptions alone — it’s more likely to fail once it is implemented.
UX research isn’t expensive, but not conducting it at the beginning of a mobile or digital project can cost companies tremendous amounts of money during the development cycle and once a project is implemented.
In the "UX book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience", the authors, Hartson and Pyla, estimate “25 percent of software development efforts fail outright and 60 percent produce substandard or ineffective products.” While there are various reasons for these circumstances, UX research goes a long way to mitigating problematic issues during the development cycle by revealing key insights at the front end of a project. Plus, depending on project goals and the availability and accessibility of a researcher to users, UX research can take a matter of days or weeks to complete — not months. Even on large scale enterprise projects, often only two to three researchers are required to gather highly valuable data in a relatively short time frame and at a minimal big-picture cost.
UX research is not market research. This is a common misconception because market research generally reveals some of the same insights as UX research — including in-depth information about consumers and their behaviors and market conditions that influence how a customer selects a specific product or service.
UX researchers build a research framework around a clients’ business objectives, which is similar to market research. They develop and interview personas, which again is similar to market research. But UX researchers have a different goal than market researchers and that’s understanding the user — whether it’s a customer or an employee — and addressing his needs. Ultimately, UX research reveals key insights to streamline a customer experience or a business process, whereas market research focuses more on providing intelligence on customer needs and preferences to develop an effective marketing plan.
If you rely on market research alone, you won’t be able to tell if a product is usable, satisfying or effective. Only UX research can provide this kind of valuable insight during the design and testing stage.
There’s a reason doctors aren’t allowed to perform surgery on their own family members. It’s the same reason business and product leaders shouldn’t conduct UX research on their employees: They’re biased and way too close to the people or situation to be objective.
In business, it pays to hire experts to get the job done efficiently. Ideally, a UX researcher is a trained professional with expertise in human factors and ethnographic research. Not only is the researcher objective when it comes to documenting customers or employees’ experiences — they also know the precise questions to ask to get the most out of their time with user. In the long run, the time a UX researcher spends on site with customers or employees saves time and money in the long run.
By better understanding UX research, what it is and what it accomplishes, you can make a more effective decision before beginning your project. Want to know more about the ROI of UX research? Click on the link below to read the whitepaper.
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