Although the popularity of user research is growing, some people think it’s an expensive pastime that only big businesses can afford. Even large companies perceive funding for research as a cost, not an investment. In times of crisis, research budgets are the first candidates for cuts. So, is research unnecessary? Let’s try to find out.

Why user research is valuable for the company

• Relevant data. Research is a source of information about the customer perception of existing or new products that helps managers develop a product strategy according to demand.

• Customer-centric. Research helps to understand customers’ needs and pains. This information allows managers to develop needs-based products and services and optimize performance, usability, and conversion of existing services. 

• Competitive advantage. A vital tool to stay ahead of competitors is to conduct comparative studies. Thanks to research, you’ll know why customers prefer some products to others, what weaknesses competitors have, etc.

• Right decision-making. Research is the best way to prevent the influence of cognitive biases, which often promote bad business and product development decisions.

Managers will never know perfectly everything about the product, customers, potential clients, and their needs, etc., so there will always be uncertainty in choosing a course of action.

But, through research, the level of uncertainty can be reduced, allowing the manager to be more confident that he made a correct decision.

The types of research 

User research is a systematic collection and interpretation of information about individuals and organizations using statistical and analytical methods and techniques from the applied social sciences. Companies use it to make business decisions.

There are many typologies of research:

• By the source of information: Primary vs. Secondary

Primary is research that you can collect yourself. It is raw data collected through various ways – surveys, focus groups or in-depth interviews, data analysis, observation, etc. The secondary is the finding out data that has already been collected, analyzed, and published.

• By the main question: Quantitative vs. Qualitative

Qualitative research acquires in-depth, detailed information about the research subject. It is the collection of data that is non-numerical. Quantitative research is the collection of data that is numerical in nature.

Qualitative research answers the questions “how?” and “why?” while using quantitative methods of research, you can get an answer to the question “how much?”

• The research subject: The Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Dimension

As the Nielsen Norman Group article states [2], this distinction can be summed up by contrasting “what people say” versus “what people do.”

So, attitudinal research is trying to mature and analyze people’s thoughts and beliefs about the research subject. Behavioral research methods focus on understanding people’s behavior toward some products or services in question.

• The main goal: Exploratory vs. Specific

Exploratory research is general and open-ended and typically involves lengthy interviews. People take them in case of absence or lack of knowledge about the research object, the target audience, the population, etc.

Specific research people use to solve a problem identified in an exploratory study. It involves more structured, formal interviews to dive deeper into a particular topic or issue.

During exploratory research, we usually collect qualitative data. Specific study often finds their insights through quantitative data. But such a division is not compulsory.

• By the context: Natural, Scripted, Not using

The natural research approach means that the study happens during the natural use of the product. The main instrument in such a type of research is participant observation. The goal is to minimize interference from the study to understand behavior or attitudes as close to reality as possible.

A scripted study follows the particular scenario of product usage. This research focuses on the insights on specific product or service usage aspects (for example, a newly redesigned flow).

Studies where the product is not used, are conducted to study broader issues than usage and usability, such as a study of the brand, advertising, or cultural behaviors.

• By the service design/product cycle: Discover, Explore, Test, Listen [1]

• By the research object: market research (brand tracking, ad test, package test, concept test), UX research, customer experience research

Each typology includes different research methods. Nielsen Norman Group, in their article [2], propose such matrics of mixing research by subject (Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Dimension) and main question (Quantitative vs. Qualitative).

Also, below, the example of the research method mix for User-Experience Research [2]

Here are some examples of how to solve specific business problems:

Conclusion

Research is a reliable base for business decisions. It is the best way to protect businesses from incorrect steps based on past consumer behavior or intuition. Removing subjective opinions while making business decisions is the goal and strength of research. If some feature was a hit in the last version of some product, how can we be sure that it still will be the same in the future? And how may it be possible to lead the product development to the next level without asking for feedback from the people who use it?

Conducting research allows you to use data to answer those questions. By identifying and gathering feedback from your target customers, you can understand how they feel about your products and services, your brand, and your communication before you go to market.

Sources
1. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ux-research-cheat-sheet/

2. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/which-ux-research-methods/

3. https://www.amazon.com/Strategic-Market-Research-Conducting-Businesses/dp/173138517X


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