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How Researchers Can Champion User Research At Their Company
Are you attempting to champion user research at your company? Read on for useful facts and actionable tips.
The amount of research that exists to support UX design is overwhelming. In 2022, there should be no reason at all for companies to neglect their user journey – and yet, more than half of brands fail to meet customer needs.
Part of your mission as a user researcher of any company is to champion UX research internally. Much like a product evangelist, you need to be the voice of your users inside the company and help make decisions that are based on evidence instead of assumptions.
It's a task that sounds easy on paper, especially considering that 70 percent of enterprise executives say that their company's customer experience is a competitive differentiator. But it can be quite difficult in reality – so what strategies can you use to make sure user research is not only present in your company, but also impactful?
User Research Is A Non-Negotiable
Before diving into some practical strategies, it's crucial to reiterate that user research is a non-negotiable part of any company that wants to be customer-centric. It's not an optional extra or something that you can choose to do when it's convenient; it should be built into your company culture and processes from the very beginning.
As a researcher, you will be well aware of the many benefits that user research can bring. But it's also worth taking a step back and thinking about the bigger picture: what does your company stand to gain from making user research a priority?
1. User research will help you build better products.
At its most basic level, user research is all about understanding your users and their needs. This knowledge is essential for building products that they will actually want to use, as opposed to products that you think they should use.
Believe it or not, testing with a pool of just five users can reveal 85 percent of the problems they'll encounter. This is because most users will have similar issues and concerns, so you don't need to test with hundreds or even thousands of people to get valuable insights.
Imagine how much time and money your company could save if you released products that were actually successful, rather than ones that needed to be heavily revised or even scrapped entirely. User research can make this a reality.
2. Research now means savings later on.
The product development lifecycle is an incredibly costly one; having to go back and make changes midway through can end up costing your company a lot of money. But if you conduct user research at the beginning of the process, you can avoid these costly mistakes.
It's always going to be cheaper and easier to make changes on paper than it is to go back and change a product that's already been built. By conducting user research early on, you can save your company a lot of time and money in the long run.
According to Dr. Susan Weinschenk, fixing problems pre-release can cost 100 times less than fixing them post-release. Fix problems when they're still small and manageable – don't them snowball into bigger issues down the line.
3. A user-centric brand is trusted more by consumers.
In today's climate, customers are more skeptical than ever before. They've been burned by too many brands that make false promises or don't deliver on their claims. As a result, they're much less likely to take a brand at its word; they want to see proof that it can be trusted.
This is where user research comes in. An astonishing 88 percent of consumers will ditch a brand after one bad online experience, and 48 percent of consumers say that web design is a crucial factor in determining their loyalty to a brand.
In other words, if your company's website or app is user-friendly and based around the expectations and needs of your target audience, they're much more likely to trust and engage with your brand.
4. User research pulls your company out of the silo.
It's all too easy for companies to get stuck in their own echo chambers, where everyone is coming up with ideas based on their own assumptions and preconceptions. This can lead to products that are tone-deaf, irrelevant, or just outright bad.
User research forces your company to get out of its silo and start talking to actual users. According to Nielsen Norman Group research, websites based around the mental model of their users are far more likely to be successful than those based on the company's own internal model.
Make sure your company is building products that users actually want by breaking out of the echo chamber and conducting user research.
American Airlines: When UX Efforts Pay Off
In the airline business, thousands of users (the passengers) are interacting with your product (the flight experience) every single day. A good user experience can make a measurable difference in customer satisfaction and retention rates.
American Airlines understands this well, which is why they've made significant investments in UX over the years. One of their most notable achievements is the redesign of their website in 2013; by making changes based on user research before rolling out the new design, they reduced the cost of fixes by up to 90 percent.
Take a company like Avon, on the other hand, and the story is one of immense loss. Avon spent four long years and $125 million on a software overhaul that was so clunky and user-unfriendly, that it actually went down the drain before the final release.
Had Avon tested its software much earlier in the iterative process, they undoubtedly would have saved themselves a lot of time, money, and headaches. As it stands, the company is now in danger of becoming irrelevant.
How To Avoid Avon's Fate
Again, the arguments for user research are almost infallible – but as a researcher, you are already aware of that. The challenge is convincing the decision-makers at your company of the same thing, and getting them to actually invest in research efforts.
We'll cover some strategies in greater depth, but first, there are a number of key challenges you may face when attempting to champion user research at your company. It's best to be prepared for these ahead of time so that you can address them effectively.
Executives Are Results-Driven
One of the most challenging aspects of user research is the fact that, frustratingly, there is no straightforward way to calculate ROI. Oftentimes, executives are more interested in things that have a direct and immediate impact on the bottom line – which user research may not always have.
This isn't to say that research doesn't pay off, of course. We know that it does; research continues to prove that it does. But in a board meeting where the main focus is on tangible results, it can be difficult to make a case for something that doesn't have a clear monetary value.
To get around this, try to speak the language of business. Align your research goals with business objectives whenever possible, and use data and analytics to show how user research has contributed to past successes.
If you can demonstrate that research has had a hand in increasing sales or reducing costs, you'll be much more likely to get buy-in from the C-suite.
Lack Of Internal Understanding
In some cases, the decision-makers at your company may not have a clear understanding of what user research actually is. They may be hesitant to invest time and resources into something they're not familiar with.
This is something we also see in the world of product development. When executives don't have a technical background, they may not understand the value of things like unit testing or code reviews – even though these practices can save the company a lot of time and money in the long run.
The best way to combat this lack of understanding is with education. Execs are often astounded by the statistics surrounding user research; they simply didn't know that the numbers were so favorable.
Lack of Proper Budgeting
Companies will often allocate a budget for user research, but it's not always enough to get the job done properly. This issue links back to misinformation and lack of understanding; if execs don't understand the value of research, they're not going to want to invest too much money into it.
The key here is to be upfront about what you need in order to do your job well. Make it clear that without the proper budget, your team won't be able to effectively do their work. User research requires a certain level of investment, and if the company isn't willing to make that investment, it's better to know sooner rather than later.
Resistance to Change
Change can be difficult. Larger companies are particularly bad at it, often because they have so much bureaucracy. Executives may be resistant to change because they're worried about rocking the boat; after all, if it ain't broke, why fix it?
Resistance to change occurs in all walks of life since humans are evolved to avoid anything that could potentially be harmful. But in the business world, this resistance can often lead to stagnation.
If you're facing resistance to change from execs, try to appeal to their competitive nature. Explain how other companies are doing user research and reaping the benefits; show them that if they don't start changing, they'll eventually get left behind.
These are some of the biggest challenges you'll likely face as a UX research advocate – but rest assured that you're not alone. Many other researchers are in the same boat, and there are ways to overcome these challenges.
With a little creativity and perseverance, you'll be able to get your company on the user research bandwagon in no time.
How To Champion User Research
We've covered the basics and delved into the challenges; you are now faced with the task of not only advocating for, but executing on, a user research strategy at your company. Let's walk from theory to practice so you can take on this challenge and be the champion your company needs.
Strategy 1: Design a Thorough Roadmap
If there's one thing that executives love to see, it is a clear indication of what you will achieve, and when. A roadmap is the perfect way to communicate this to your team; it also happens to be an excellent user research strategy in and of itself.
This is why high-risk projects like cryptocurrencies and NFTs are so often accompanied by a roadmap; it gives the team a sense of direction and ownership over the project, and shows traders and investors what to expect.
When designing your roadmap, make sure to answer the following questions:
- What are your team's user research goals?
- What does success look like? How will you know when you've reached it?
- What methods will you use to collect data? How often will you execute research?
- What's the budget for user research? How will you allocate it?
- Who is responsible for each stage of the process?
Keep in mind that your roadmap will need to be flexible; as your team grows and changes, so too will your user research strategy. But by having a detailed roadmap in place from the outset, you'll be able to make changes with confidence and keep everyone on the same page.
Strategy 2: Get Buy-In From The Top
Never underestimate the necessity of c-suite support when championing user research at your company. In order to get started, you need to ensure that the decision-makers in your organization are on board with the idea of investing time and resources into user research.
Again, it is difficult to give an estimate of ROI for user research, so you'll need to make the case for it in terms of its potential impact on the company's bottom line. What are some of the ways that user research can improve your product or service? How will it help you to better understand your users and their needs?
It can be helpful to list some case studies like the American Airlines case mentioned earlier, or to share stories of how user research has benefited other companies in your industry. Once you have the attention of the decision-makers at your company, you can begin to build a case for why user research should be a priority.
Strategy 3: Create A User Research Culture
One of the most important things you can do as a champion of user research is to create a culture of research within your organization. This means making user research an integral part of the way that your team works, from the early stages of product development all the way through to launch and beyond.
A key part of this is ensuring that your team has the skills and knowledge necessary to carry out user research effectively. Training will likely be part of this; consider bringing in external experts to provide workshops or guidance on best practices.
You will benefit from setting up systems and processes that make it easy for your team to integrate user research into their work. This might involve creating templates for research plans, setting up process documentation, or investing in research software like Optimal Workshop.
Finally, you'll need to lead by example, carrying out user research yourself and demonstrating its value to your team. By doing this, you can create a user research culture that will help your company to build better products and make more informed decisions.
Strategy 4: Find Your Allies (and Keep Them Close)
As a champion of user research, you're likely to encounter some resistance from others within your organization. This is to be expected; after all, change can be difficult, and people are often resistant to anything that threatens their existing way of working.
One way to overcome this resistance is to find allies who share your passion for user research and who are willing to champion it alongside you. These allies could be colleagues, managers, or even executive-level stakeholders. They may not be researchers themselves, but perhaps share your sentiment that user research is essential to building great products.
Whatever their role, your allies can play a crucial part in helping you to overcome resistance and build a case for user research within your organization. Keep them close, involve them in your plans, and use their support to help you drive change within your company.
Strategy 5: Regularly Report On Your Progress
There's no need to wait until you've achieved your goal of integrating user research into your company's DNA to start sharing your success stories. Regularly reporting on your progress, even in small increments, can help to build support for your cause and show the value that user research can bring.
Consider creating a regular presentation or report that covers the following:
- How user research has been integrated into your company's work (e.g. what processes have been put in place, what templates have been created, etc.)
- The benefits that user research has brought (e.g. improved products, better decision-making, etc.)
- Any challenges you've faced and how you've overcome them
- Your plans for the future; iterations or changes you plan to make to your process
Regularly sharing your progress in this way will help to keep user research top of mind for your colleagues and stakeholders, and may even help to convert skeptics into advocates.
Strategy 6: Use the Right Tools
After investing hours of your time into user research advocacy – whether it be attending meetings, writing reports, or presenting findings – it can be frustrating when the actual user research process holds you back.
That's why it's important to use the right tools for the job. User research tools are a booming industry, with new offerings being released all the time. Keeping up with the latest trends and technologies can be a challenge in itself, but it's worth taking the time to find the tools that will help you to run efficient and effective user research studies.
Respondent.io, our own user research platform, is designed to make the participant recruitment process as smooth and painless as possible. We have collected a credible and engaged panel of marketers, developers, executives, and more, who are ready and willing to participate in your user research.
We provide a simple interface for screener questions, so you can target the right participants for your study quickly and easily. Our incentives-based approach ensures that you'll get quality feedback from engaged participants, and our team of user research experts is on hand to provide support every step of the way.
If you're looking for a platform that will help you to streamline your user research process, Respondent.io could be the answer. You'd be amazed at how tools like this can make your life easier and free up your time to focus on other important things.
User Research Needs A Champion
As a user researcher, you have the disadvantage of being the newest, most misunderstood member of the company. Everyone else in your company has a specific job title and department, but your job is user research. Don't let this discourage you, however.
You have the unique opportunity to help your company make better products by conducting user research and making recommendations based on your findings. And, while you may have the burden of proof to show the value of user research to your company, you can be the champion of user research within your organization.
Remember that, as the champion of user research, it will be up to you to help your company understand how user research can be used at each stage of product development. Here is a quick summary of the most important take-home strategies:
- Educate. Make sure your c-suite is equipped with not only knowledge about what UX research can do for the company, but also a roadmap of how you plan to achieve those goals.
- Create a culture of user research. At its best, user research is a team sport. You'll need the help of colleagues in order to be successful. Weave user research into the fabric of your company by setting up regular check-ins, conducting stakeholder interviews, and integrating user feedback into the product development process.
- Get buy-in from the top. In order to get a budget for user research projects and team members, you'll need to get senior leadership on board. Make a case for why user research is important to the success of the company and be prepared to answer any questions they may have.
In the best-case scenario, your company will be well ahead of the curve when it comes to product development and will be able to make informed decisions based on user feedback. You, as the champion of user research, will be instrumental in making this happen.
Remember that Respondent.io is here to help you create a seamless user testing experience. Don’t leave your sample pool up to chance – start and end with quality.