Are you plotting your User Experience without User Research? Avoid this pitfall.

User Experience | 08 November 2015

If you are designing your User Experience without User Research, you may just be headed towards a very disadvantaged position and, with the help of Jakob Nielsen’s seminal concepts and article, we hope to convince you to avoid this pitfall. If your goal is creating a user interface and experience capable of drawing and keeping your users happy and reaching the conversion line, starting out by excluding them from the development process may just be the first wrong turn in a series of fall outs. At Hi INTERACTIVE, we believe that User Research can take User Experience projects one step further and, in the following article, we will explain exactly why.

Why User Experience without User Research won’t help your business

The founders of Nielsen Norman Group, Don Norman and Jakob Nielsen, defined UX as follows when they started the company in 1998:

The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother. Next comes simplicity and elegance that produce products that are a joy to own, a joy to use. True user experience goes far beyond giving customers what they say they want, or providing checklist features. In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company's offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including engineering, marketing, graphical and industrial design, and interface design.

As any marketing expert will be able to corroborate, what a user say he wants and what he actually wants are two different things. In the same color, what your development team considers as sound User Experience and what your users might classify as such can also be two very different things. It all goes to show that crafting User Experience without User Research can make all the difference in the outcome of your project.

The subterfuge of the User Experience team

 You may be tempted to point out that since your company or organization already has a fully-fledged User Experience team, you are well covered in that field. It’s another common pitfall, but the fact remains that User Experience without User Research is not User Experience, it is something else. That was precisely the point Ashley Karr makes on her article,  where she explains that is the User Experience process is unrolling without users, than it cannot be considered as such. For the sake of accuracy, it should be called personal experience design, stakeholder experience design, or client experience design. Unless you are working directly with representative users, you shouldn’t label your work as User Experience.
Work developed alongside users has countless advantages, among which would be the ability to design an interface which reflects users’ mental models instead of an interface which is the by-product of engineers, designers or organizations. Ultimately, it will be the user who will have to find his way in the experience maze, so making sure that users understand the design you spent you developed is a great way to start. Besides, the better you come to understand how users react, the easier it will be in the future to create a bridge between your design ideals and design users will be able to understand. It is one thing to look at an interface with designer’s eyes and quite another to look at it with laymen’s eyes. Yet another reason why you shouldn’t do your User Experience without User Research.

Getting down to business: starting your User Research

Going back to Nielsen’s article, he spares no words to stress the importance of not just doing User Research, but of doing it right. There has to be methodology and clear understanding of the reasons that lead you to choose one or several research methods over others. Three mistakes that you can spare yourself, according to Nielsen, include:

  • Getting your feedback from the wrong people, i.e., stakeholders and colleagues, since these two groups of people do not really represent your target audience. Anyone who is too close to the design process shouldn’t be considered a user.
  • Leading your users while looking for answers.
  • Choosing the wrong research method: consider your development stage and the questions you need an answer to.

Develop your design the best way: avoid the pitfall of User Experience without User Research. Drop us a line.