Who could know your customers better than your team? Your customers themselves. As businesses work to build a seamless customer experience, customers with their needs, preferences, and expectations are ironically enough often the voices that go unheard.
Your team’s dedication, passion, and hard work can’t make up for the knowledge gap between what your customers need and what your team thinks they’ll likely need. User experience (UX) research closes this gap throughout the UX design process, ensuring your business saves resources, builds loyalty, and provides the ideal user experience for every single customer. Learn more about the UX research process, its proven business value, and what to start testing.
What is user experience (UX) design?
User experience design is a human-first approach to creating an end-to-end brand experience and user journey across physical and digital touchpoints. On your website, it’s the sum total of the look, feel, and usability of your site. This includes how pages are laid out, structured, and even the individual elements on the page itself. Sounds like web design, right?
UX design vs. web design
UX design is a broader term and process that encompasses web design, while also building experiences beyond your website. Web design solely focuses on building, maintaining, and optimizing a site to be responsive, intuitive, and secure. UX designers look at the same site with a larger lens and perspective to see how your website works within a larger brand experience.
UX design vs. UI design
UX and UI (user interface) design, while even more similar, are rooted in one key difference — user needs vs. company needs. UX is centered on users’ needs and uses research to create an overall “feel” and general usability that delights target audiences as they interact with a product or brand. UX designers create the information architecture, wireframes, and more to deal with the “feel” and flow of all things. Conversely, UI focuses on the visual aspects that come from client needs which include page layout, brand typography, brand colors, and brand fonts. Both UX and UI are needed to build a complete digital experience that works for both your customers and your brand.
Building a user-focused experience across every company touchpoint is no easy feat. Like all strategic decision-making, UX design is rooted in research.
The UX research process
Your team has ideas about what your customers want from their user experience. However, your team is not your customer. When stakeholders hear this, they can often feel jaded or annoyed. How could they not know what their customers want and need? The strength of UX design is that it’s built from quantitative and qualitative research that addresses the biases, assumptions, and misconceptions of your team.
Factually, anyone who works for your brand is better informed about your brand and company than even the most loyal customer. This information silo impacts design decisions as they are made unless UX research is used to bring truth to light.
A well-worn phrase with UX designers, advocates, and researchers: “You are not the user.” While blunt, it’s true.
UX design requires research to identify exactly who your users are, what they like, and how to best meet their needs. A correct and complete understanding of your users’ experience on your site goes beyond assumptions, misconceptions, and biases. UX research provides solutions that either confirm your assumptions (giving you a pat on the back) or show where your ideas weren’t so accurate. Either way, this knowledge powers a better user experience and customer interaction with your brand online.
Since UX is such a broad discipline, the examples that follow center on website UX research.
UX research benefits + business value
Effective UX research budgeting saves you money.
While research isn’t often initially seen as budget-friendly, UX research saves businesses money. Dr. Susan Weinschenk, the author of The ROI of User Experience, states, “The cost of error after development is 100x that of fixing it before development.” It’s true. Errors resulting from UX assumptions that later prove to be false costs businesses more to fix further down the design and development pipeline. It’s better to check UX earlier than to amend updates on a fully built website that will make more resources to fix.
Failing earlier costs less for your organization. As projects progress, rewriting early mistakes or assumptions becomes more and more costly. However, money isn’t the only key resource you can save with UX research.
Strategic UX research i.e. general usability tests saves you time.
A common misconception is that conducting research involves hundreds of users in large-scale studies, taking a long time to establish findings. However, key insights can be found with just a small test group of users. The Nielsen Norman Group affirms, “testing with just five users can uncover 85% of visibility issues.” By studying just a small user group, UX researchers can dive deep into user motivations and experiences. Researchers can focus on high-interaction moments within the user experience instead of testing every variable on the site. These general usability tests show how users interact one on one with the website, providing critical insights into key touchpoints of the user experience.
UX research ensures you meet your customers’ expectations online.
It’s common knowledge that many consumers today feel brands fail to meet their online customer experience expectations. UX research helps bridge the gap between customer expectations and your current user experience or UX assumptions. Research helps your business not guess or assume, but know exactly what your customers want. Knowledge about your customers’ expectations enables your business to build, scale, and evolve your site to better meet their needs — in turn improving your own success.
What can UX research analyze and test?
There are thousands of different variables on your site that UX research could tackle. Here are some of the most common elements of a site researchers analyze and test.
- Info architecture and site maps
- User flows and conversion funnels
- Wireframes and templates
- On-page messaging and content
- Call to actions
However, UX research is always rooted in the unique challenges of your business. Identifying a clear goal, specifying key data pieces, and solidifying custom measurement is vital to ensuring your research yields results that make a difference for your business. Unlocking these opportunities is usually best left up to the professionals, but researchers are most successful when they work fully aligned and in tandem with your team. This partnership enables customization that can go a step further to problem solve and identify new opportunities for your business.
The bottom line: you are not your user. UX research saves your business time, money, and other resources, ensuring you make data-driven decisions. Don’t decide based on internal team assumptions or knowledge, your customers can never have all of the information that your own team members do. Investing in UX testing and research for all key touchpoints of your total user experience helps meet customer expectations, improve conversions while building brand loyalty for better lifetime customer value.
Where should you start? Our UX team can help you unpack and prioritize next steps for your business. Our web design process blends the science of web development with the art of data-driven creative to build the best digital experiences for our clients and their customers. Learn more about our data and analytics services and creative and development services, and as always feel free to reach out!
To learn more insights from our analytics team, read Paid Media Targeting Beyond Cookies.