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A Guide to UX Research Strategy
Companies that have institutionalized UX design and UX research strategy in the culture have consistently seen revenues double than the ones who don’t.
However, it is typical for some product teams to embark on UX design for business apps without a coherent UX research strategy. Gut feeling? Perhaps. It is similar to shooting in the dark and hoping to hit the bullseye.
Even when they say they do user research or user testing, it could be limited to surveys, interviews of their co-workers or friends and family. Involving co-workers or friends and family introduces bias.
A common excuse used for not conducting UX research is not having time. The other reason is that there is no budget for UX research.
Not conducting user research or usability testing is a result of not having a thoughtful UX research strategy.
Value of UX research strategy
UX research strategy incorporates multiple research methods at different stages in product UX design and development stages.
Different user research and usability testing methods provide different findings. A seasoned UX research teams know which UX research method to use for specific results. Expert UX researchers also understand how to align user research strategy with product roadmaps. A robust UX research strategy ensures proper planning for budgets and timelines for pre-launch activities and post-launch activities and future releases.
It's a common misconception that user research is used only for new products; in fact, it is also essential for existing products. Different stakeholders in the organization use the research analysis in the following ways:
- When the product manager decides to make significant changes or add new features to existing design followed by user research.
- The marketing manager can use facts based on UX research to create or make changes to the marketing strategies to target the right audience at the right time and the right place.
- CEOs, startup founders, and entrepreneurs can formulate new strategic decisions based on UX research findings.
Planning for UX research
According to the recent report from AppDynamics, 50% of those surveyed would be willing to pay more for an organization's product or service if its digital services were better than competitors. Successful product companies devise a UX research strategy to plan for UX research activities in parallel to support product release plans.
As agile product development has become a common practice in the industry, most teams focus on planning for development and quality assurance; experienced product development teams have gone further to include product release management and other areas.
However, most agile teams are unprepared to conduct user research because of a lack of UX research strategy. Project planning, therefore, doesn't account for time or the budget for the UX research.
The product roadmap should incorporate the chosen UX strategy. While the agile process values collaboration with customers to define the product vision, it is not in practice. They may collaborate with proxies for actual end-users, like the stakeholders who work closely with the end-users or they used to be end-users years ago. However close they may be to the end-users; they are not the end-users themselves.
"When user requirements are not validated but are still called "user stories," it creates "the illusion of user requirements" that fools the team and the executives, who are then mystified when the product fails in the marketplace" - D. Rosenberg.
Product success depends on the UX research strategy
A successful company has to better than its competition at developing new products and maintaining them in the face of ever-changing customer expectations, changing technology landscape, and competition that can take away your customers.
All products generally can be categorized into one of the three buckets- a brand new product, an existing product, or a stagnant product looking to grow. UX research strategy will be very different for each of the product levels mentioned above.
It is essential to plan for user research throughout the product development lifecycle— requirements gathering, UX design, development, and post-launch. In any stage of the product development lifecycle, all UX research activities motivate a specific research goal. Specific UX research goals will focus on defining or refining a business problem, identifying and understanding a target customer, and specifying the scope of initial product releases.
Ultimately, research goals at any stage of a product development center around fundamental questions of what to build to solve a business problem, what pain points we are addressing for our customers, and how we benefit from the product. There are three different levels of product:
Brand new product
Bringing your vision for an original product to life is frequently one of the biggest hurdles for product managers, CEOs, startup founders, and aspiring entrepreneurs. The research's main goal is user onboarding, acquiring users, understanding, and addressing the users' problems and pain points.
User onboarding is the system of actively guiding users to find new value in your product. User onboarding makes or breaks your product.
For example, Duolingo has a user onboarding experience that employs gradual engagement. The process begins with the product trial exercise and ends with a signup form. Gradual engagement involves nurturing customers by postponing registration for as long as possible—usually until the moment when users must register. Their onboarding flow includes a trial translation exercise, showing how quick and easy it is to learn a new language before asking users to commit to the product purchase.
If the product or service already exists, UX research or usability testing will tell you whether the product is solving the pain points and meeting existing customers' needs and expectations.
The main goal is to retain users, understand where they are getting stuck, and switch to another brand. This way, you can learn what you can do differently to meet the needs and expectations and exceed and outdo the competition.
One of the most innovative customer engagement and retention moves is Starbuck's Mobile Order & Pay feature within its app. As of August 2017, rewards members represented ~18% of Starbucks 75M customers and drove 36% of sales. Thanks to the new feature focused on customer engagements and retention, customers can order their coffee before they even arrive at the shop.
Retaining customers alone doesn't get you growth. You have to figure out innovative ways to grow, and it can be a mix of user research strategies and tactics. UX research and usability testing is the crux of growth experimentation. Based on usability testing results, you can turn on and off certain features for select users.
Companies like Netflix, LinkedIn maximize the customer's value through experimentation in product development based on a robust user research strategy. Growth experimentation enables the maximizers to improve upon the already developed value to make the customer experience more delightful.
The product team can leverage experimentation when it feels like the customer base or revenue is not growing. This strategy moves beyond conversions or customer acquisition or retention so that your product is indispensable in the customer's lives, delivering growth. Experimentation in product design and development is a leap toward a customer-centric organization, an essential growth strategy.
Partnering with an experienced UX research agency is critical for B2B companies.
Remember, mobile app development is an on-going process that takes constant communication and multiple revisions until you have a final version. So, when you have a reliable team of UX researchers and designers who understand your market and app development needs, your chances of getting a potentially successful app are much better.
It takes immense expertise and experience to get it right, so vet your app design agency candidates carefully. Fortunately, here at Designial, we deliver on all counts. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our services.