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How to build a UX research process to delight your users

Good user experience is the difference between your new product converting users into devoted, brand-loyal customers, or falling by the wayside with all the other million-pound ideas. If your website or mobile app isn’t up to scratch, consumers will simply navigate elsewhere to be informed, entertained, or complete a purchase. And with some 88% of users unlikely to return to a website due to poor usability, a subpar UX could be the achilles heel that undermines the blood, sweat and budget that you’ve put into your project.

So, what’s the solution?

In order to build a slick, seamless UX, you’ll need to back it up with a well-oiled UX research process. This all-important starting step is the first that our designers take when creating digital products, but what does it look like? Let’s pull back the curtain.

What is the UX research process?

The UX research process is an ongoing operation to collect data and insights to inform your UX design. The caveat here is that these steps are systematic — meaning methodical and rigorous — leaving no UX stone left unturned. At each step of the UX research process, designers will implement qualitative and quantitative research methods to gain insights, validate or discard conclusions, and assess user sentiment.

This way, designers can consider the entire journey that your users go on when using your digital product, repeatedly inspecting each critical touchpoint to ensure they present a robust, user-friendly, and up-to-date product UX.

What are the benefits of UX research?

UX research helps designers to create and deploy the most intuitive and successful UX for their digital products. Here are some of its top benefits:

Promotes user understanding

In the early stages, a solid UX research process can uncover the objectives and potential obstacles faced by the user, helping to inform the design’s overall strategy. Designers can then ensure that they are creating products with specific user motivations in mind, addressing common pain points and making the product as enjoyable as possible to use.

Addresses usability issues

As an ongoing and iterative process, UX research also helps to identify any usability issues that users might encounter, often before they get the chance to face these themselves. This prevents any frustration from taking hold and leading users to bounce away from the page, which could prove costly for your business.

Provides return on investment

From a financial perspective, UX research minimises any development costs by identifying and addressing potential problems at an early stage in production. This means that you’re less likely to need to pay out for redevelopment and fiddly adjustments later down the line. Naturally, it will also ensure long-term value, as a successful UX is associated with higher conversion rates and increased revenue.

Keeps products relevant

Lastly, cyclical UX research helps designers to stay on-trend and ensure their platforms provide the very best of what current technology has to offer. While the UX research process should ideally begin as early as possible, it should also continue through all stages of the development cycle. There is always something new to learn — and even once a project is launched, many companies return to UX research to continue to innovate and stay at the cutting edge of their market.

Think of it this way: if a UX designer at Microsoft had conducted a comprehensive UX research process back in 1985 and then never repeated it, we’d all still be running on an interface that looked like Windows 1. And whether you love it or hate it, it’s fair to say that times have moved on.

What are the steps in your UX design research process?

Each digital design agency will take a different approach to UX design research — in fact, even the team members at Shoreditch Design vary in the methods we use between each of our clients. The reasoning behind this is that there’s not necessarily any one ‘right’ way to conduct your UX research. Instead, it all comes down to your client’s objectives, your experience, and the resources you have to work with.

However, if you’re looking for some inspiration, there is a series of tried and tested best practices for UX design research that we come back to time and time again.

Here’s a brief look at a standard three-step UX research process:

1. Identify product goals

When we begin our design planning, the first step is to clearly define the objectives we want to achieve with our clients. To do this, we need to gain some all-important insights that can lay the foundation for our design approach. We’ll usually try to get in the heads of both our clients, through stakeholder interviews and requirement gathering, and prospective users, through field studies and user testing. These techniques help us to learn more about what our UX and UI concepts need to deliver.

When we worked with sports tech brand Sport Buff, for example, we looked at Version 1.0 of their platform and discussed what we could do to improve upon their existing product. This involved conducting plenty of user testing and interviews to inspect where the platform’s pitfalls and new opportunities were hiding before we started to design any UI components.

2. Plan for the user journey

Next comes our exploratory phase. Once we better understand our clients' offerings and objectives, we can research some of the personas they’re looking to reach. To do so, we’ll engage in persona-building workshops, user story writing, and competitor analysis. These methods help us dig deeper into the problems that our designs will solve, compare features against competitor products, and define how user behaviour should inform our design choices.

Market research was a big part of our process when we worked with marketing platform Scratcher. We headed straight to work on competitor analysis and established current and future design trends in the space that would fit their brand. Once we had these brand guidelines in our arsenal, the rest of the four short months we had to design for the team flowed smoothly.

Market research is also helpful when you’re attempting to map out the structure of a digital product.

When we were sketching out the user flow for Flairbox, for example, comparing the features on offer from other community web apps helped us to highlight any user pinch points. We used this as a springboard to plan an intuitive, inclusive UI that would avoid the obstacles that caused friction when navigating other platforms.

3. Test and tweak your drafts

Then comes the testing phase of UX research. At this point, we typically have some design drafts that we’ve received stakeholder feedback on and can test among a small user base. This involves both quantitative and qualitative research techniques, such as surveys, search-log analysis, usability testing and other observations. These final metrics help to gauge progress towards the final product and check for any adjustments that need to be made before prototypes are sent for development.

Our work with garage startup Left Lane began with a few hastily drawn scribbles laying out the site’s architecture. We then put together a design system to solve the challenges surrounding the client’s sales system and tested it until we had a shiny, streamlined new UX. In just a couple of months, we produced a dev-ready prototype ready for building.

At the end of your UX research process, you’ll have produced a solid UX concept to streamline how users engage with your product — but it’s not a ‘one and done’ endeavour. Comprehensive UX research should continue well beyond your product launch to keep your business ahead of the competition.

Partner with Shoreditch Design for your UX research

As you might have gathered, it’s no straightforward process to gather all this data and distil it into an actionable plan for your UX design. And that’s where we come in. Our designers have years of experience in researching, developing and implementing cutting-edge UX and UI solutions for clients across healthcare, tech, and plenty of weird and wonderful professional services.

If you’re searching for a creative agency to research and develop a seamless UX for your next big thing, you’ve found it. Take a look at our full UX design portfolio or get in touch with us today to tell us about your design needs.

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