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A Quick Guide to Executing Efficient, Effective User Experience Research

David Farkas

Associate Director, Experience Design, EPAM United States
Blog

Only through user research can we quickly, efficiently, and effectively direct tactical and strategic change for businesses. But what qualifies as good research, and why does it matter? Consider for this discussion the example of redesigning and launching a new eCommerce platform. 

Good research starts with good questions and involves real users, often in context of their work, and considers business and technical goals and constraints. This includes techniques such as contextual inquiry, where researchers observe a task in its ‘native’ environment, and may also include remote observations and usability testing. For an eCommerce client, this involves remote intercept testing with actual customers, reviewing challenges with customer service representatives and meeting with business stakeholders. 

Another major factor is cross team collaboration. While someone may specialize in research, it’s a process that doesn’t happen alone. No one person can or should know everything about a project. To reference a common saying, “we are more than the sum of our parts.” It is important to bring a broad team into research activities, including developers, BAs, as well as client stakeholders who observe and weigh in on research approaches.

While certain teams might be focused on facilitating research, you need input from the organization as a whole to allow your clients to gain business value. By bringing engineers and business leads into the process of facilitating research, the eCommerce project team was more aligned when recommendations and strategy were presented. Latent needs, known or understood by senior executives, were uncovered and engineers were empowered with a seat at the table before requirements were solidified to help direct the feasibility of a solution.

Research early, and research often – is another key to executing a successful strategy. In programming, we hear about technical debt and the snowball effect of fixing bad code or a poor implementation down the line. Design is no different. For EPAM’s clients, designing the wrong solution causes design rework and subsequently impacts engineering. Reflecting on the e-commerce experience, an incorrect feature getting to development could have impacted the overall timeline. Research filters scope to reduce design debt and technical debt. It is never too early to conduct research. No research is too small if it informs technical requirements or broader business strategy. This may include evaluating site analytics and an informal survey or may be as robust as task validation and customer feedback.

Regardless of budget, schedule or scope it is never too early, or too late, to begin asking each other questions. By doing so, we elevate our practice to solidify our position as strategic partners. Don’t be afraid if you’ve never participated in research before - we all start from a place of curiosity and can grow together from there.

David Farkas will be presenting on UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products during the iA Summit on March 21, 2018. To learn more about the event, visit http://www.iasummit.org/talk/ux-research-practical-techniques-designing-better-products/.

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