The UX research phase with and on users is something that is often sacrificed in projects with a low budget available. There are many excuses that are raised to justify this choice, which almost always - however - is found to be counterproductive. In this post, we have collected the most common justifications trying to refute them one by one.
1. "There is no time"
Perhaps, the most used phrase to exclude the UX research phase from a UX design process (or redesign process) of the product is linked to the lack of time. The constraints due to the tight timings of a project's timeline - especially in a competitive context that evolves very quickly like the current one - often tend to penalize the role of UX research.
Yet, the idea that research on user experience takes a long time to be completed is not absolutely true: most of the survey techniques require two days to a week of work, to which there should be added a more or less similar elapsed time to achieve streamlined but complete report results.
A fundamental role in making UX research compatible with planning and development times is certainly what is covered by the correct planning of its execution times, starting from the preparation of the tests to the reporting phase.
2. "There is no budget"
Another very frequent reason that hinders the use of UX research is obviously linked to the limitations of the budget available. It is undoubtedly true that the survey methods such as usability tests and focus groups - which require expenses for the organization of the laboratory, for the recruitment of the users and to offer them a monetary incentive to participate - are solutions that are not always available to all projects.
However, it is equally true that there are other more inexpensive UX research techniques: from data analysis to surveys, from tests carried out online at a distance (with the user that can be guided by the researcher or carry out the test independently) up to less structured tests, such as the guerrilla research.
There is another economic aspect that should not be overlooked: oftentimes, failure to carry out the analysis and the UX research phase, since the initial steps of a project entail higher redesign costs to resolve the critical issues, is only identified as a posteriori.
These techniques do not allow complete control of the user and the test and often do not allow going too deep: the data analysis, for example, describes what happens during the user experience well but is less able to suggest the reason for some behaviors that occur.
However, the possibility of obtaining insights, even with a low level of detail, makes it possible to direct the efforts of design into the right path.
3. "There is no need to take a test. We already know the problem"
Setting aside the reasons related to the lack of time and budget available, one of the most common justifications is the belief that there is no need to test the product because the problems are already known. Even in the best hypothesis, this conviction is based on data and feedback on the functioning of the product that the company has available, in the worst-case scenario, it is the result of assumptions not consolidated by findings.
The first of the two cases is not free from the risk of underestimating the effectiveness of UX research, because the available data could offer a picture of the very partial situation: usually, the usage logs and the user feedback can be very useful to describe the problem but not to understand it in depth. Furthermore, the unstructured feedback has the limitation of collecting only what users want to tell us and not all that would be useful to know about their experience of use.
The worst-case scenario is where certain reliance is made on the assumptions that have not been put to the test of facts. These beliefs are often the result of the personal assessments, linked to the role that is held in the organization, the skills, and the user's background. Leveraging on these assumptions can block the research process on UX but it can also negatively affect the examination of the results of the UX research, which could be used simply as the confirmation of the initial idea: in this case, we are the victims of the so-called confirmation bias.
Also, the approach of the test with the users must, therefore, be clear of too strong anchors to the idea that the company has made itself on the user experience of its customers.
4. "We don't need real test users. We already know what they want"
One of the most common mistakes that can be made is having the presumption of knowing what our users want and how they actually use our product. In reality, it is not like that, and it’s easily demonstrable even after one or two tests carried out with real users.
The habits, the context of use and the level of competence of each user ensures that the methods of use that are different than the planned ones are developed. In early approaches with a product or service, people may find it difficult to understand how it works and take non-linear routes to perform tasks.
However, when it is known very thoroughly, some users tend to improve, where possible, the "shortcuts" of using a product, with the aim of shortening the time to get to the final result, compared to what is provided by a standard procedure.
Studying the behavior of real users helps to analyze errors, frustrations, and strategies: all fundamental elements to improve a product
The same applies, of course, to thoroughly investigate the users' goals and wishes, which may not coincide with the designer or the producer of the service. This is why in the case of products destined for B2C, it’s not good practice to recruit personnel within the company, especially if they are involved in the process of conception and development, only with the aim of saving on the budget and on the times for testing. Real users offer feedback that is less influenced by cognitive bias that can guide the judgment of the product designer.
5. "We need a focus group/an online survey" (or another random test)
The last of the errors that we actually analyze is not - in reality - a justification for not doing UX research, but a wrong approach to it. One of the most common mistakes is to start from the choice of the search tool without framing the exact problem to be analyzed and the type of response we want to obtain. Choosing a survey technique without defining the hypotheses and the objective can lead to producing outputs and data that are not suitable for drawing the correct conclusions.
Each UX research method has its focus and its ability to respond to questions about the user experience better. Some types of tests help to explore what users do, others to investigate what they think and say while using a product. Some techniques help to quantify the number of mistakes made, how often they are made and how many people run into them, others to understand why mistakes are made and what possible solutions can be implemented to eliminate or mitigate them more in detail. An article from the Nielsen Norman Group has collected the features of 20 UX research methods in a very useful framework.