Why the UX Research Matters for Your Discovery Project
Do you want the customer to enjoy using your software from the very first minutes and open it as often as possible? This is entirely possible if you provide him with the best user experience (UX for short). To achieve the desired effect, you have to include the UX research process in the discovery phase steps.
But what is the Discovery Phase? And what does UX research involve? Let's sort it all out right away.
What Is The Discovery Project?
Let's say you have a startup idea... what to do next? How to avoid mistakes and the risk of failure? Alas, many promising projects end up bankrupt due to poor planning.
That’s why you need the Discovery Phase. It’s the best way to get started... at least if you don't want to join the number of losers. The stage is necessary to assess your project prospects and understand what should be considered in order to ensure your startup’s success and make it profitable.
After all, any flaws and gaps you missed at the start may affect the project's future long after its release. And this applies, among other things, to UX design.
Before we discuss the types of UX research, let's delve into the very concept of the User Experience as related to software design.
What is UX Research?
UX research is a competent analysis of the user's needs, feelings, emotions, behavioral patterns. It has nothing to do with whether the user likes your product. Rather, we're talking about whether the product meets the user's expectations. Does it solve his problem?
What does the UX research process provide?
less risk of creating a product, which is incomprehensible and inconvenient for users;
selection of the most successful design solution;
creating a user-centric design (because you put the consumer first).
When to conduct the UX research?
project start. UX research should always be done when launching a new product;
improvement of an existing product. Is your project not working as well as it could? Sometimes the problem isn't poor functionality, but imperfect and ill-conceived design. And UX research will help you solve the problem.
But of course, UX research alone is hardly enough to reach a goal, which is the successful project start. It's just one of the discovery phase steps.
Why Do You Need UX Research as Part of the Discovery Phase?
UX describes the user experience when interacting with an online or mobile resource. It includes many components: interaction patterns, data architecture, visual design, usability, and so on.
UX design has 2 main tasks:
minimizing the time for the user to achieve his goal, whether it is ordering a taxi, making a sale, buying an item, etc.;
maximizing user loyalty (the better user experience, the more satisfied consumers are).
Do you want to get proof that UX is a great way to improve sales? Read on.
An example of how the UX design affects conversions
At the beginning of the 21st century, a skilled UX expert Jared M. Spool analyzed the famous US electronics website Best Buy. He wanted to see if he could find a way to further increase sales by improving the usability of the online store in question.
His research led him to the following conclusion: consumers were annoyed by the registration form that appeared on the page when they tried to proceed with the order. So Jared M. Spool suggested changing the name of the button (“Proceed to checkout” instead of “Register”) and adding a caption “You will be automatically registered on the website.” This resulted in sales growth of $300 million per year.
Now you see why you need UX research as part of the basic discovery phase steps, don’t you?
Main Types of UX Research During the Discovery Stage
Quantitative UX Research
The simplest UX research involves measuring the quantitative characteristics of software. It's always easier to deal with numbers, isn't it?
A quantitative approach is meant to answer questions like: "How many users tapped (or clicked on) your Call To Action button?" "How many users left the app or site during the checkout phase?" And so on.
Armed with this data, you’ll easily figure out what to change in the design concept to solve user problems. That's why quantitative UX research is one of the crucial discovery phase steps.
Qualitative UX Research
It's much more difficult to work with qualitative data: with information that cannot be measured using clear numerical indicators. It's more about "Why?" instead of various “How Many” questions. To be precise, you don’t ask how many users are leaving the site: you’re trying to figure out why they’re doing it. For example: "Why are users leaving my website so quickly?", "Why aren’t they finding my ordering form?".
As you can imagine, the attempt to understand why people do this or that is quite a challenge. Fortunately, Discovery experts know how to find answers to these questions.
And now let's briefly outline what methods are being used to perform the above types of UX research (all of them are included in the Discovery Phase process):
Observing users. The method is simple but effective. Of course, it implies you've already figured out who your target customers are, where they can be found, what they prefer, and so on. Without such information, you won't know where to observe them!
By the way, these observations are related to the operation of applications or sites of your type. For example, you can see how customers in stores choose products, what they pay attention to, and take this data into account when creating a catalog for your own eCommerce project.
Polls and questioning. Mere observation isn't always enough. And sometimes it's easier (and much more effective) to run a real user survey and get answers to all your questions. Why read tea leaves when you can just ask?
Focus groups, which you've probably heard of many times. It’s a more expensive way to collect data than a simple questionnaire. In the end, you need to collect people from the target group and pay them for the time spent.
In-depth interviews. They’re as close as possible to live communication. Also, there is an opportunity to ask in detail any questions regarding the ideal user experience.
A/B testing, which mainly refers to quantitative types of UX research. You won't get answers to the Why questions, you'll be dealing with quantitative data. And keep in mind, conducting A/B testing requires access to a large audience, which is also rather costly.
Eye-tracking. It implies the use of special equipment that shows the movement of the user's gaze across the page. Where did his eyes stop? How does a customer search for information? All this can be learned using the eye-tracking method.
Usability and concept testing. Of course, testing starts later on, when there is something to work with, but we couldn't fail to mention it.
Surely, the above list can be continued and supplemented with other items, but you get the point. As to the choice of a particular research technique, it greatly depends on various factors, including:
your project's specifics. Perhaps you've already gathered some useful data, which means you don't need to conduct extensive, in-depth research, simpler methods are just enough.
available budget. As you already understood, some of the research techniques are costly, so let your budget guide you.
deadlines. And the last important point is the time factor. What kind of time do you have? When do you plan to start the development? When should the product be on the market?
Anyway, each Discovery project is unique and requires an individual approach.
Key Artifacts of the UX Research Process
Now we’ll tell you what artifacts we at Agilie resort to when conducting Discovery.
Sketches, which are just primitive, early drawings of the future prototype. They are created at the 1st stages and drawn either by hand on paper or on a computer, but also roughly.
Wireframes or low-level prototypes. It's a low-detailed, broad outline of your project interface.
Mockups, a higher level, detailed prototype. In fact, they are improved, modified wireframes with an approved color palette and a full-fledged design.
Interactive prototypes, which differ from mockups in that you can click on them and evaluate their usability before the actual development stage.
The User Flow term has many interpretations, but, actually, it's just a general concept. It visualizes the user's path (or, rather, user flow… which explains the name).
User Flow illustrates the sequence of actions the user performs to achieve his goal. It can visualize a single feature (say, ordering a taxi in an app like Uber) or cover the entire software product.
User Flow takes many forms, and one of the most popular examples used in varied types of UX research is the following.
Screen Flow is, too, based on the sequence of user actions. It allows seeing how the product should operate and works out either one separate feature or the entire multi-level software functionality.
It consists of visualized application screens (or website pages). These are low-detailed wireframes (in which case, Screen Flow works out the product navigation) or full-color mockups (and then Screenflow shows a more complete user experience).
The main task of Screen Flow is to illustrate the process of working with a product.
Screen Flow in one form or another is almost always a must-have in the UX research process (without it, there is no way to understand what the principle of the product is going to be). However, sometimes you need something more, something involving the actual user experience and his feelings, emotions. For example...
User Journey Map
The User Journey Map helps to describe the user's experience when interacting with the digital product, including his or her emotions, feelings, and even thoughts. So we're talking about a full-fledged visualization of the user's journey through the website or application.
It’s not about product navigation. Here we’re dealing with the user's journey when performing the target action: buying a certain product online, ordering a car in a taxi app, purchasing a ticket using a cinema application, and so on. And any journey involves not only actions but also emotions.
Screen Flow and User Journey are great if you already have a working concept in mind. And what to do at the start of the project, if we’re talking about the very first discovery phase steps? Then it’s best to make a so-called Mind Map.
In fact, this is a block diagram that helps you work out the product logic and plan all the main interrelationships.
Business process modeling
And the last but not least artifact we use is business process modeling. The task is to think over the business logic of the future product and figure out (visualize) the main user pains. This way, you’ll be able to find the perfect solution, which meets all customer needs.
Experts to Conduct UX Research in the Discovery Process
The next big question is: who is involved in the UX research process?
Surely, we can't speak for everyone, so let's talk about how our team works.
Who is involved?
Sometimes only one of the above experts performs the UX research, and sometimes they have to work in tandem. It all depends on the specific Discovery project: what one requires won't be useful to another.
After all, UX research isn’t just about drawing a map of the user's journey as we see it. We have to correlate it with the client's business goals, which is much more difficult.
What are the steps in the UX research process?
Target audience analysis. We won’t be able to proceed without understanding the goals and motives of the target user and clarifying the context of the software use. What should the UI look like to provide the best possible UX? That's what you need to find out first.
Building UX hypotheses. We start by creating some sort of Mind Maps to visualize initial ideas and hypotheses about product UX. After approving the best one of them, we build wireframes and mockups and use them to design the User Flow in the way the client needs (sometimes a Screen Flow is more than enough, and sometimes User Journey development is required too).
Hypothesis testing. Any concept and idea need to be tested to see if it really works the way we expect it to.
Analysis of results. Are you satisfied with the results? Great, the first UX research cycle is successfully completed: the data obtained can be used in the product design & development. Are the results rather disappointing? Then we have to make some adjustments to the initial hypothesis.
And it goes round and round. Yeah, different types of UX research is a process, which lasts through the entire development phase. The IT market is changing rapidly, and it is important to constantly check the relevance of the chosen UX solutions.
User Flow & Software Type
Finally, let's add that User Flow is greatly influenced by the project’s nature.
Let’s say, if we're talking about a supermarket application with a built-in loyalty card, then an effective User Flow includes a minimum of steps. In the end, the user must scan his bonus card at the store's checkout, and he might be in a hurry (as we may safely assume), he has no time to deal with a complex authorization system and stuff like that.
And with a crypto wallet, the approach to the User Flow is completely different. It's not just about a loyalty card with accumulated bonus points. It's about real user savings! Therefore, the User Flow should be longer and more detailed.
So, let's summarize:
The best way to start a project is to include a Discovery Phase in the development cycle.
Discovery Phase will be incomplete without UX analysis.
Surely, Discovery has many steps, and UX research is just one of them. However, without it, you won't be able to find a way to create a product providing the perfect user experience. And it's all about customer experience and his emotions, agree?