A few months ago, my team and I were assigned to do a sprint for one of our products, with a task of finding some quick wins that we could implement into our product in a short amount of time, trying to keep our stakeholders as low as possible. Due to the speedy nature of this project, as well as it being our first project with new teammates, bringing in our research team was the last thing on our minds. We thankfully met our tight deadline, and the product had a positive turnout, thanks to a wonderful team of hardworking folks, but we received a lot of feedback from our clients about bits and pieces of the product causing confusion. With that, we ended up bringing research into our project after the initial launch to begin understanding those user pain points, and seeing how we can address them on our next round of iterations (hopefully with a longer timeline).
All of this brings me to the main point of discussion that I want to address..how important is user research during the ux process? My answer is — very.
First off, what is user research? According to an article by the Interaction Design Foundation, user research is defined as a “methodic study of target users — including their needs and pain points — so designers have the sharpest possible insights to work with to make the best designs. User researchers use various methods to expose problems and design opportunities, and find crucial information to use in their design process.”
As we can see, the definition is broad. Certainly, we included some user research to identify the pain points in our user’s journey. As designers, we incorporated journey maps, and researched our stakeholders to get to the root of all of our problems. Some of the areas that we didn’t get to touch on were initial user interviews, and usability testing once we had done some design work. There were definitely some opportunities for us to dive in deeper with user interviews during the discovery phases of our research. One great way we could’ve incorporated research in our tight deadline would have been to bring in Lean UX.
Lean UX is defined in this article by Hotjar as “ a user-centered design process that embraces Lean and Agile development methodology to reduce waste and build products centered around the users. Lean user experience design relies on a collaborative approach and rapid experimentation/prototyping, to get user feedback by exposing a minimum viable product (MVP) to users as early as possible.”
There are three steps in the Lean UX process.
- Think — through discovery work such as competitor analysis, stakeholder interviews, etc…teams begin to identify pain points in the user’s process when interacting with a product. From there, they are able to address concerns, and make efforts to improve the product.
- Make — once pain points have been identified, designers start incorporating solutions into their product through prototyping and developing.
- Check — once a product has been created addressing a variety of pain points, designers can launch the prototype using survey tools, to gather quick feedback on the designs, to make sure there aren’t any large gaps in the process.
Lean UX is just one of the ways a product team can quickly get some research done before a product launch. Although research is easily overlooked and one of the first things to go when budget and deadlines are tight, it is a simple solution that can make a huge difference in saving the company time and money in the future.
Ultimately, user research is a very important part of the ux design process, as it helps to catch product teams mistakes before they launch their product. As I continue to move forward, I will be sure to incorporate methods, such as Lean UX and user interviews in my design process, and encourage my product team to do so as well, so we can minimize mistakes and ensure that our users have the best possible experience.