UX Research Is Essential to Product Success


During a project kick-off meeting, my design team was in a discussion with a client when various mental models clashed in the room: “Why should we do that?” “What is journey mapping?” “Why do you need to mention man-hours for doing card sorting explicitly in the UX-effort estimation sheet—and, seriously, what is that?” It became quite evident that it was difficult for our client to understand the meaning and value of UX research. Of course, it would be rather ludicrous for the team to request that the client read about the benefits of UX research. But it became clear that everyone on the project needed a common language and a shared philosophy.

Should your design team dedicate time to UX research—despite the stakeholders and project manager thinking otherwise? How could you convince them of the return on investment (ROI) your client would generate by doing UX research? All too often, when these types of questions arise, teams sacrifice the value that a generative user-research phase would add. Many people think a research phase would be a waste of time and money. However, they are unaware of how user research impacts product strategy—from the conception of an idea to the delivery of the product. To change the mindset of your stakeholders from being naysayers to being advocates for user research, you must help them understand how research can add value to their product and that learnings from user research are an indispensable asset to a product team.

What Is UX Research?

The discipline of UX research encompasses both generative user research and evaluative UX research. Generative user research is key and should constitute a full-fledged discovery phase, during which you can discover and analyze users’ behavior, needs, and motivations to contribute context and insights to product strategy and design. By using various user-research techniques during this phase, you can better understand users and their needs, which, in turn, helps your team to identify product requirements.

There are many methods of UX research and analysis that you can apply throughout the phases of the product-development cycle—such as competitive analysis, focus groups, surveys, contextual inquiry, card sorting, journey mapping, the creation of personas and scenarios, participatory design, Joint Application Development (JAD) sessions, and evaluative UX research methods such as A/B testing, design critiques, eyetracking, and usability testing. Each of these UX-research methods has its benefits and drawbacks. They are useful in achieving different goals. So choosing the right UX-research methods depends on your project’s requirements and constraints. Applying the appropriate UX-research techniques within the constraints of your project’s practical parameters is of paramount importance in ensuring a high-quality research plan.