December 22, 2015

Startup

10 user research myths

By Alexander Sergeev

Jim Ross, senior UX architect at Infragistics, considers that nowadays there are many people aware of UX and the importance of understanding users. But still there are myths concerning how to acquire this understanding. And in this article he reveals the truth about user research.

 

Myth 1: User Research Provides Stunning, New Revelations

There’s a tendency to overestimate the effect of the information it reveals. When you try to convince clients to include user research in a project’s activities, you may oversell the benefits and, later on, they’ll be disappointed as the reality can’t match the expectations you’ve given them.

The Truth: User Research Provides Very Useful Information — and Perhaps a Few Amazing Insights

There are cases when user research provides unexpected things, but usually, it’s something we already know.

The main goal of user researches is to understand users, tasks, tools, technologies they choose and their environment.

 

Myth 2: User Research Tells You How to Design Your Product

Just like in the myth above, some people think that user research will show  how to design your product or other ways for innovations.

The Truth: User Research Provides Information That Informs Design

Yes, user research does provide essential information for design but it doesn’t reveal design solutions instantly. Understanding of user is of a great help for designers to find solutions to problems. But it won’t hint what exact design solution you need.

 

Myth 3: The Purpose of User Research Is to Gather General Information About Your Users

Some may conduct user research when they have an unclear goal. And it’s wrong. User research is impossible to predict and know its result.

The Truth: You Need to Define Specific Research Goals

If you have an unclear goal while conducting a user research, you’ll get unclear findings. On condition you have a limited number of participants and a limited amount of time with each of them, there will be as much information as you can uncover. That’s the reason why you should set an exact goal for your user research. Think of what user groups, tasks and questions you need.

 

Myth 4: User Research Involves Asking Users What They Want

User research is asking people what they want, finding out their problems and asking about a probable solution to them. It’s like getting a feedback on future features, ideas and design.

The Truth: User Research Is About Inferring What Users Need

User research is an interview and observation how people perform tasks in their typical environment. And this information helps to find out their needs. Later on, it’s checked with the help of usability tests.

User research concentrates on monitoring behavior of users and asking them questions in order to understand the situation. Seeing the problems that users encounter, we think of improvements. And their success is evaluated by usability tests.

 

Myth 5: User Research Stifles Creativity

When asking people what they want during user research, there may be a fear that user research buries design creativity. Because such an approach means that users tell what to do.

The Truth: User Research Provides Information That Is Useful in Creative Problem Solving

User research doesn’t dictate what to create. It gives important information about users, their needs and use context. But it’s designers who decide what to create basing on the information they have.

 

Myth 6: Don’t Listen to Users

People don’t know what they need and it’s difficult for them to find a solution to their problems. So, don’t listen to them. Some people even say “There’s no use conducting user research at all.”

The Truth: Listening to Users Is a Key Part of User Research

The phrase “Don’t listen to users” should be changed into  “Don’t just listen to users or uncritically do exactly what they say you should do.”

It’s very important to listen to your users. While people doing their tasks, it’s helpful if they think aloud explaining what they are doing. If they encounter a problem, ask them more questions about it. User research may lead you to new discoveries. But it may not, if you don’t listen to your users.

 

Myth 7: User Research Is Expensive and Time Consuming

User research, just like other project activities, costs money and takes time. Some people consider it to be another expense.

The Truth: The Cost of Not Understanding Users Is Far Greater

It’s true that user research takes time and costs money. But it’s more important to spend these resources well. Just think of the consequences of designing without user research. It’s a great risk which may lead to a poor design and overall negative consequences.

 

Myth 8: User Research Is Usability Testing

Usually, the first thing people think of while talking about user research is usability testing.

The Truth: Usability Testing Is Just One Type of User Research

Usability testing is one user research methods. Jim Ross says that “We still need to educate stakeholders about the differences between usability testing and other user research techniques, as well as where these activities fit into a design process. If you don’t correct this misconception, stakeholders may wonder why you want to do user research at the beginning of a project, then conduct usability testing during the design process.”

 

Myth 9: Field Studies Let You Observe People’s Natural Behavior

Field studies help us see people’s natural behaviour in their usual environment.

The Truth: Your Presence Affects the Participants’ Behavior

It may be more realistic to observe users in their natural environment, but interviewers and observers still affect their behaviour as it isn’t exactly natural. It doesn’t mean that this information isn’t valid anymore. Just try to diminish the effects of your presents.

 

Myth 10: Some User Research Is Better Than None

If you don’t have enough time or money, shortcuts will do. Some kind of user research is better than nothing at all.

The Truth: It’s Better Not to Do Any User Research, Than to Enable Half-Assed User Research

It’s impossible to conduct an ideal user research and once in a while it’s ok to take shortcuts. But you become an enabler if you do it all the time. And, in this case, it’s better not to conduct user research at all rather than to rely on a poor so-called research.

 

Conclusion

Jim Ross says it’s a wonderful time for UX as many people realize how important it is. They also understand the need of conducting user researches to inform design. You’ll be able to help your users and team members to get a profound and realistic understanding of user research value if you communicate the value of user research clearly and set reasonable expectations for its results.

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