Knowing how to create a successful and appealing digital experience is crucial for us to achieve business goals and meet our client’s needs. A user-friendly interface and an intuitive design can make a big difference in audience satisfaction, but how do we get there?
This is where user experience research (UX research) comes in. UX research is a process that involves gathering data and insights about the users' needs, goals, and pain points. We find contextual evidence and insights through our research that help guide product solutions. This information is used to create digital products that are tailored to meet and exceed the users' needs. The UX research phase is essential for us to lay the foundation of a project and get a better understanding of the product solution before we enter the design phase. We will touch on our UX design process in another article, so be on the lookout for that!
At Perpetual, we follow a rigorous UX research process to ensure that every project is based on a deep understanding of user needs and preferences. We know the importance of UX research in creating successful digital products, and we have made it an integral part of our design process. We call our UX research plan the “Perpetual 10-Step Research Process”, which we outline below.
Since each project is unique, a tailored plan is necessary. Therefore, while the 10 steps outlined may serve as a useful framework, they may be adapted to the specific needs of the project. In some instances, less or more emphasis may be placed on specific steps in the process, and for others, a streamlined approach may be more appropriate.
1. Project Kickoff
The project kickoff stage in UX research is necessary for gaining an understanding of the overall client business and their product vision goals. During this stage, we conduct a thorough review of the client's existing product, including its goals and measures of success. We then identify any dependencies needed from the client team. We plan the research process with the client team, ensuring that it aligns with their goals and objectives. This stage of open and collaborative communication sets the foundation for a successful project.
2. Application UX Audit
If there is an existing application in place, we conduct a UX audit to identify usability, content, structure, typography, iconography issues, and other opportunities for improvement. The UX audit requires an experienced team to finely comb through any issues and to keep the end goal in mind. We evaluate the site or app by comparing the existing application to industry standard best practices for application design.
3. Competitive Review
The competitive review stage in UX research helps our team better understand the market and identify competitors. We begin with a competitor list and any previously done competitive analysis provided by the client team. We then refine this list with input from the client and review additional competitor products with an emphasis on comparative analysis. This analysis consists of planned and identified features.
The analysis is then organized into a visual matrix that compares the planned features against those of competitors from a UX perspective. It is important to consider account information architecture, branding adherence, features, and other aspects at this time.
Through this process, we gain valuable insights into the market and can ensure that the product stands out from the competition.
4. Stakeholder Interviews
To gain a comprehensive understanding of the client's goals and constraints, we conduct stakeholder interviews. This is with a set number of individuals depending on the client and the scale of the project.
This includes at least one representative each from stakeholders from various departments on the client team. This is flexible depending on the client’s business model, industry, or size.
These interviews help us gain insight into the business context, stakeholder priorities, company workflow, and project requirements to define what success means for the client team.
5. User Interviews
An essential part of effective UX research is the user interview stage, which enables us to understand the user and their behavior. During this stage, we plan a set number of end-user interviews, with the amount depending on the scale of the project. We have different strategies and approaches for sourcing users.
We work closely with the client team to plan and conduct these interviews, which provide valuable insights into user needs, preferences, and pain points. By gathering feedback directly from end-users, we can ensure that the final product meets their needs and delivers a positive user experience.
6. Metrics Review
After conducting interviews, we also take the time to review the information we have collected. This process involves analyzing metrics, analytics, and heat maps across the product suite. We identify patterns, themes, and insights that provide feedback about the user experience.
By reviewing this data, we can gain a deeper understanding of how users are interacting with the product and identify areas for improvement.
7. User Feedback Review
In addition to reviewing the analytics gathered from interviews, we look specifically at what the users have said about the existing product or service. We will review customer feedback through a ticketing tool, if available. This provides insights into the user's needs, behaviors, and expectations, which can help to improve the overall design of a product or service.
8. Persona Creation
To design for real users with real needs, we create personas based on the insights gathered from stakeholder and user interviews. These personas are conceptual representations of different user types, based on real data and insights. By creating personas that are 'in the shoes' of the different users, we can contextualize the product’s design and refine it for their needs in the interface design phase.
We may reference or repurpose any existing personas created for this purpose, as part of the broader client redesign. Personas help us keep user needs at the forefront of the design process, resulting in a more user-centered and effective design.
9. Interface UX Analysis
In this phase, our goal is to analyze the user experience interactions and flows and provide recommendations for improvement for the chosen client product to be redesigned. We work collaboratively with the client team to review the expected user flow and refine user stories planned for design.
Activities in this phase include: creating journey maps and user flows for different users (we look at the observed or current status of the user flow and compare it to an ideal version), building a sitemap and information architecture, considering target persons to guide design decisions, and optimizing interface and interactions to prioritize user goals for an intuitive and efficient workflow.
We then detail user stories planned for current feature sets while identifying necessary UX interactions.
10. Interface Redesign Recommendations
After conducting research and testing, we summarize the prioritized recommendations for interface design based on the inputs from the above steps. This may include changes to the layout, navigation, content, or functionality of the site or app.
We then present these recommendations to the client, along with a rationale for each change, and implement these later in the design phase.
Incorporating UX research into the design process has many benefits. It helps create digital products that are tailored to the users' needs, which results in a better user experience. It also helps identify and address any usability issues before the product is launched, which saves time and money in the long run.
To get a fuller understanding of the differences between UX research and UX design and the tools associated with each, we recommended checking out our article UX Research vs. UX Design. Stay up to date with Perpetual on social media so you can see the second part of this series talking about our UX design process!
UX research is a crucial part of the design process, and we recognize its importance in creating successful digital products. By following Perpetual's 10-step process and incorporating UX research ahead of the design process, we create user-friendly and innovative products that meet user needs. If you're looking to create a successful digital product, let us help build your vision.