The 3 Stages of UX Research
UX, user experience, or as we prefer to call it customer experience all refer to the interaction that your end consumer has with your product, your brand, and your company.
Before you can begin designing the best possible user experience, you need an in-depth knowledge of your brand, your product, your industry, and your customers.
You need to know what you’re building (are you designing a new mobile platform, an ad campaign, a physical store?).
And finally, you need to know what the goal is. What are you ultimately trying to accomplish?
This is the very basic process behind UX research.
Many people skip this step and jump right in to UX design without completing any in-depth research process. They read the latest blog article on web design, put their heads down, and follow blindly the latest trends or best practices, without considering if it even applies to their company, their customers, and their strategy.
Don’t be one of these companies. Take the time to research.
UX research is your roadmap. You would never start off a long journey without a detailed map (or at least your smart phone with access to Google Maps). In the same way, you should never start UX design without first drawing your roadmap. Think of it as your foolproof plan for success.
STAGE 1: UNDERSTAND
The first thing that you need to do is understand your surroundings. This means both your business and brand AND your customer.
So, just as any good cartographer would begin, the UX research process begins with inquiry (…that is to say LOTS of questions).
What does your brand offer? Who are your customers and what do they need? How are you different than your competition? What are your core values?
You need to deeply understand the brand, products, business, customers, and business model.
Why? So that you can make the right decisions…so that you know whether to turn right or left at the fork up ahead.
All of these questions about your brand, product, and customer help you to identifying the elements that need to be mapped.
Without this background knowledge, you don’t know which way is north or where potential roadblocks lie.
Side note: It is important to validate your assumptions with user testing. This can be either formal testing through focus groups or surveys, or very informal testing by asking friends and family. Obviously with the latter you may get some biased results, but the point is to quickly and cheaply test your assumptions in order to validate whether or not you are accurately identifying the world around you.
STAGE 2: ORIENT
Next you need to determine what is relevant. This is the process of selecting which elements should remain as part of your map and which elements to eliminate (the elements that aren’t relevant to this specific journey).
Imagine if a cartographer included everything that he saw on every map. The map would become so overcrowded with unimportant details like shrubbery and lamp posts and trash cans that it would become impossible to read. And a map that you can’t read is essentially useless.
So in this stage, you narrow the focus of your map to the specific task at hand.
Is this a marketing website to capture leads, an ecommerce website, a mobile application for consistent customer engagement? We need to know what the product is in order to define the parameters of the map and determine what the key components are.
STAGE 3: SET THE DIRECTION
The final stage of UX research is clearly defining the goal of your product and how you will measure success.
What is the destination of your journey? Are you looking for site visits, new leads, ecommerce conversions, or simply more brand engagement?
It is important to determine how you will define success so that you know as you begin your journey whether or not you are on the right path.
User Experience Design
Only after all of these stages do we begin user experience design to determine the route we’ll take in order to reach our final destination…that is, begin the customer experience design process to create a product that will work.
If you don’t create the map, you are designing without knowing which way is north. Without first knowing where you are, and where it is that you want to go, you cannot create a winning user experience for your customers…
…and without a winning customer experience, it is very difficult to succeed.
The moral of the story is don’t jump to design first! Do your research.