I want you to think back to the scientific method that you learned in grade school. Did you start testing on a whim? No—you remember, right? You always start with a question. Then you conduct some background research to form a hypothesis. All of this happens before you begin testing.

An effective UX design process looks a lot like the scientific method: you empathize with users to understand their problems and conduct research to support those assumptions before developing a prototype. But too many companies today are skipping this initial phase of research. As a result, they’re wasting significant time and resources.

The truth is, you should be conducting #UXresearch at the start of any #UXdesign project.    

If you’re still developing products based on what your leadership team thinks, it’s time to evolve your UX design process. Today, I want to show you the outcomes of two very different scenarios.

UX Design Process #1
The leadership team approaches the design team with a hunch that customers are going to start purchasing products via cell phones more often. They read that mobile purchases are on the rise and that shopping on the website or in retail stores is declining. We need to create a new mobile app, so let’s do it, they say. The design team jumps to it, full steam ahead. A team of business analysts gathers requirements from the leadership team based on what they think users want. A project manager delivers a spec to the software development team who estimates that the app will take a year or so to complete. The app is finally ready for testing, but the testing team quickly realizes the app isn’t well-received by users. What went wrong?

UX Design Process #2
Based on industry analysis, the leadership team has a hunch that a new responsive mobile app will increase profitability. They pull in the designer in charge of research requesting answers to two key questions: What experience do our users have now? What would an ideal experience look like? The research team gets to work, conducting user interviews, surveys, focus groups, and usability testing. They take their findings to the product manager and software engineers: Here’s the feedback we’ve gotten. This is what our users want. What is technically feasible with the budget we have and the timeline we’re working with? All three teams work together to develop a working prototype (or MVP) and take this back to the leadership team: Based on what we found through research, this is what people dislike about our current mobile app and this is what people want. Given our deadline and budget, here’s what we can do. Once cleared by leadership, the research team presents the new prototype to the same user group for feedback.

User research (or #UX research) is the bedrock of any successful #UXdesign initiative.

Of course, you could get to the end of scenario #2 and hear from your users, We hate this. The beauty is that you’ve eliminated months or years of working in the wrong direction. I see it happen all the time—major organizations investing in these massive projects that go on for years, fail and are then scrapped entirely. Research reduces the risk of that ever happening, and while it may require an investment on the front end of a project, it’s a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

So, remember—great UX design always starts with a question: What would an ideal experience look like? You should never build a prototype based on a hunch alone. You must be willing to dig deeper to understand the true needs of your users. Research informs great design, and great design creates great experiences.

Of course, I’m a realist. I understand that the majority of organizations who aren’t conducting UX research are limited by their leadership team’s lack of understanding or limited budget. If you’re looking for a partner to help you champion your next successful UX design project, check out 3Ci’s User Experience Design services. 

Check out this infographic to have a sense of the current state of UX design and how your program stacks up against the competition. Check it out!


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