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.
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.
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.
Just like in the myth above, some people think that user research will show how to design your product or other ways for innovations.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
User research, just like other project activities, costs money and takes time. Some people consider it to be another expense.
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.
Usually, the first thing people think of while talking about user research is usability testing.
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.”
Field studies help us see people’s natural behaviour in their usual environment.
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.
If you don’t have enough time or money, shortcuts will do. Some kind of user research is better than nothing at all.
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.
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.