When it comes to any project, the user experience is of paramount importance and to evolve the user experience appropriately, it is important that there is appropriate user research involved. User research is the process that allows us to understand the behavior patterns, preferences, and overall attitudes and needs of the users through various methods. User research is conducted in an order to present the client with design solutions which are based on informed user data. However, there are always budget or feasibility constraints that may eat into the possibility of user research.
Teams like to prioritize their budgets for the actual solution rather than research. But without proper research, any solutions that you may work upon will be incomplete. And most teams only realize the importance of user research when it is too late. All projects have certain constraints, but it is possible to conduct user research in spite of those. Let us talk about some ways to ensure user research on a budget.
Working with a budget
First, let us understand how user research is undertaken usually. The best way to get reliable user data is through user interviews or contextual inquiries. Now, these can cost anything depending on various factors such as geographical proximity with the users, user privacy, nature of contextual inquiries, the length of the interview etc. So it is understandable that these might not always be financially feasible for all projects. In which case, you can go through the following tips to ensure that user research is undertaken in spite of budget constraints.
1. List out assumptions and confirm them
Whatever assumptions you may have about the users, list them out. Your assumptions may not be necessarily true, but it is informational to write them down on a paper and get a better understanding of your assumptions of the user. These assumptions could be on their demographics, habits, or even preferences.
Now that you have a list of assumptions, you can go ahead and confirm them. There are various ways to confirm the same. You can run a survey with questions pertaining to the assumptions or you can analyze the existing customer data in order to do so. For example, if you believe that your users are predominantly female, you can go through past customer records and easily confirm the same. This will validate your assumptions and help you get solid user data. This method is the most cost-effective method to conduct user research as surveys can be virtually free. And the time taken to do so is also negligible.
2. Make use of customer support data
Customer support teams have way more insights than you would imagine. They are the ones interacting with the users regularly and if this is documented, you have your raw user data ready to analyze. The analysis of requests and complaints will give you precise information about your users that you can easily use in order to confirm your assumptions and validate your existing data. If this data is not documented, you can always interview customer support executives and gather insights from them. They are the next best thing to user interviews. As the customer support data is already available with you, the only costs involved are those of analysis.
3. Focus groups
A great alternative to user interviews is focus groups. Focus groups will allow you to get the same insights as from user interviews but will save you a lot of time as these interviews will be conducted in groups. There needs to be a facilitator who mediates discussions and brainstorming sessions. It is best to have an observer who documents the focus groups in order to extract information from the same later.
User research essentials
The above-mentioned list is in no way exhaustive. There are various other methods such as A/B testing, empathy mapping, and employing analytics that can help you undertake user research on a budget. You can learn more about those here. The important part of the project is to understand that any user research is better than no user research. Once you go about collecting user data, you can easily identify what works for and which methods are not suitable for the project.
User research provides invaluable data on the behaviors, attitudes, and pain points of the users. This data shapes your project in the initial stages so as to save a lot of cost and effort in the later stages. Relying on user data to back your decisions will ensure that your project remains strong throughout the process and your design solutions are effective.