Why any user research is better than none

User Research – Measure twice; cut once

Part of growing into a really successful UX agency means we’re being asked to work with much larger clients on more focused research projects. Obviously this is great news for our team as they now have the project timelines and budgets to perform far more robust user research and testing than they could before… and research and testing is essential if you want to understand how and why people are using, or are likely to use, your product or app, and forms the cornerstone of our design and development processes. Validating UX and UI design decisions on these types of projects is essential – even a slight usability difference can impact the outcomes when we’re talking about sites and apps that measure their user numbers in the 10s of 1000s and upwards.

Sometimes we may be working on a smaller project; perhaps as part of a bigger picture, or just because it’s an interesting concept and we’ve decided we’d liked to be involved. These projects often come without budget allocations for user research – certainly nothing substantial enough to afford customer interviews, eye-tracking, or click by click analysis and interviews of live interactions.

In these situations it could be tempting for smaller teams to just bypass the entire user research process and leap straight into design and build.

Before you do that… STOP!

If one of our clients has an existing web site or mobile app the very FIRST thing we do is look at how their user base are currently interacting with it. You wouldn’t believe how many glorious designs we see where when we investigate further we find that users just aren’t doing anything; certainly nothing the original┬ádesigner intended them to do. We see linear-layout sites where 70% of the traffic never ventures below the fold, we see navigations cleverly tucked away inside hamburger menus and yet nobody clicks on them, and time and again we see mobile users “rapid scrolling” straight down a page much too fast to take in any detail and then clicking away.

As designers, as UX specialists, even as developers, we’re all human and as such we’re bound by the common human afflictions of assumption and reinforcing our biases.

If you don’t watch people using your stuff, you’ll be left with your own interpretation of how you think people use it – and that’s really not that useful.

Measure twice and cut once is an old adage but trust me, it applies just as much to the work we do today as it ever did.


Written by Rob Harrison

Rob is a digital engagement specialist for Goodman Fox with over 15 years experience in building successful online experiences for the healthcare, technology, and property sectors.

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