‘You’re not your user’ – surely you’ve heard this before? And surely you’ve heard people talk about user experience (UX) research and its importance in the product development process? But why is that? And how can it be implemented ‘in reality’, where business continues as usual and monetization usually comes first?
Why is UX research so important?
Like the name implies, doing user experience research is basically getting to know your users in order to better understand them, by applying the right method at the right time in your product’s development process. This is what being a user or customer-oriented company is about. And that’s exactly what Stylight is. User research is one of our main projects as we’re totally aware that it is imperative to the success and prioritization of our product.
Knowing what your users actually need at an early stage of the product development process gives you data to back up your design, thus removing assumptions and saving you valuable time and money. There would be no need to go back and fix mistakes when the product is already deployed. Knowing what annoys your users on your live product helps you to fix the problem and gives your user a better experience when using your product, thus also increasing its usage. Still not convinced? Let me give you some numbers. BestBuy.com changed their checkout process in which sign up was no longer mandatory for the users, and this generated an extra $300 million in additional revenue each year. ClickTale changed the input of phone number from mandatory to optional, and they doubled their sign up conversions from 40% to 80%. Now that sounds like a big result, doesn’t it?
But knowing that UX research is important is not enough. The biggest challenge researchers usually have is to convince the stakeholders in the company to believe in it and to support it. That is why good user research does not only mean understanding the user, but also the company in which the product is built.
Surely, the main task of a UX researcher is to be the voice of the user, translating their pains and needs into product requirements. Whilst doing this, though, they must also take the company’s interest into consideration. If the company thrives on advertisement, it is not a good move for the researcher to insist, “users don’t want to see advertisements”. Instead, they should embrace the input from both sides and collaborate with the stakeholders to find a solution.
Rule n°1? Get your stakeholders on your side!
Stakeholders are the people who you need to believe in your research, to act upon research results, and to sponsor future research. This can be the CEO or upper management, product managers, marketing and sales people, software engineers, QA professionals and designers.
As a UX researcher, working together with stakeholders is much easier when you have them on your side. In order to achieve this, your work should not be a ‘black box’, meaning that you do the research yourself, or with your research team, and only present the result to the stakeholders when you are finished. Instead, you should involve them in the research process. By doing this you not only ensure that the users’ voices are heard, but also commit to building a user-oriented product.
At Stylight, we UX researchers are assigned to the product teams, so most of our stakeholders (product owner, software engineers, designers) are already a part of our team. This definitely makes it easier for us to involve them in our research process, but our goal is to make Stylight more and more user-oriented. That is why we also encourage the stakeholders from other departments to be interested and take part in UX research.
8 Tips to Get the Stakeholders on Your Side
If you are already working in a user-oriented company, congratulations, and keep up the good work! For those who are not, here are some things we do at Stylight, to get the stakeholders on our side.
1. Research is your friend.
You don’t have to be a UX evangelist, but don’t be shy to talk with your team and also people from other departments and help them understand that doing user research doesn’t slow the development process down, but actually helps you build the right product faster.
2. Research is small.
Surely, as a researcher, you would love to have your own lab for usability studies, your powerful survey tool, your participant recruiting team and what not. But you also know that user research could be as easy as doing a short guerilla test at a coffee shop with 5 different people. Whenever stakeholders argue that user research is expensive, or takes too much time, show them that it can also be done in small scale.
3. Involvement before the research.
You might be surprised how much your stakeholders actually want to know about the users. Give them the opportunity to have their questions heard. Be proactive: collect their questions and integrate them into your research questions.
4. Involvement during the research.
Invite your stakeholders to observe your user test sessions, especially if the test includes their questions. Watching users use the product should increase their empathy towards them and make them understand the users better – their joy, their struggle. The more they observe the better, and it is also better if one person can observe more than just one session; do what is possible in your situation. Just be aware that if one person observes only one session, there is a tendency that he/she is biased toward that one user.
5. Involvement after the research.
The fastest way to deliver the results of a round of qualitative user research is when the results are evaluated and aggregated during or shortly after each interview. We at Stylight use these posters:
Green post-its are for positive findings, pink post-its for negative findings, and yellow post-its for other findings. It is also noted on each post-it which test participant (e.g. “1”) the finding came from. Should the same findings are found by the next participant, their number (e.g. “2”) will be noted on the same post-it. That way, at the end of all interviews, you get the whole picture of what kind of findings were collected, how many are positive/negative/other, and how many test participants were affected by which findings.
Ask your observers what findings they have collected during the interview and aggregate the findings together with them directly on the posters. Don’t forget to give an overview for new observers about what has been collected so far.
6. We own our solution.
Certainly as a researcher you should give your share of input on what is best for the users, but you should also remember that stakeholders are more likely to implement a solution they themselves have come up with. If you have been involving them from the beginning of the research, by the time you present the results they must be eager to share their solution to improve the product. Embrace their eagerness and let them work together to find the best solution. It is best to do this right after the presentation of the research findings, since the input is still fresh, but it is also okay to do it in a separate workshop.
7. Spread the word.
Present your research findings not only to the involved stakeholders, but also to the whole company. Choose a topic that would interest even those who don’t work directly with the product itself, for example, findings about users’ level of satisfaction whilst using your product, or how your product is generally perceived by users.
Mention the stakeholders who participated in your research and how you have worked together with them. Emphasise the importance of understanding research as a work of collaboration. Your message should be, “we’re in this together, we work together to find the best possible solution”.
8. Last tip: be patient.
Spreading user awareness inside a company is not a simple task and it might take a while until you see the fruits of your labor. But rest assured that it’s worth the effort.
For further information about getting stakeholders on your side, we’d recommend picking up a copy of It’s Our Research by Tomer Sharon.
|By Alexandra Trisnayuda – UX Researcher|
Header image source: blonde.net