The Return on Investment
UX design, when we execute it well, can yield a return on investment of up to 301%. This is a staggering number in comparison to the value of other parts of any business. While people throw this statistic around quite frequently these days, they often ignore an essential part of this statement: execute it well. If we executed UX design poorly, possibly as a consequence of skipping UX research, the ROI wouldn’t appear as impressive. If we could successfully convey the reality to our clients that the ROI of UX design drops dramatically if teams don’t conduct research, their perspective might quickly change. Nevertheless, by supplementing this negative argument with a positive one that shines a light on the benefits of UX research, we can make them more cognizant of our thought process, as Figure 1 depicts.
A large reason why businesses invest in UX design in the first place is to shrink the gulf between themselves and their users—a goal that seems hollow in the absence of UX research. This fact segues well to my next point.
Understanding Our Users
A better understanding of our users, as illustrated in Figure 2, is a benefit of research that tempts many a decision-maker. But our clients cannot possibly attain this understanding without conducting user research. Unless businesses conduct user-research and usability-testing activities that provide multifaceted insights into their users, they not only won’t be able to conduct a true UX design process but would also miss out on understanding the mindset of their core user base. The data we can gather through the process of UX research can aid so many different operations of business, including but not limited to marketing, sales, and operations. Plus, the business would lose the value of the frameworks and models that UX professionals can create by leveraging the data they’ve collected through user research, including personas, usage scenarios, and mental models. These can provide multipurpose solutions that address various business objectives.
Designing for the Future
UX research doesn’t just give us insights into the present of our users but their future as well, as Figure 3 represents. Understanding users today tells us a lot about what they might need tomorrow, adding the facet of long-term value to UX research. We can extrapolate the needs and wants of users in the present to form an understanding of their needs of tomorrow, which we can then address either directly or independently of the UX design process.
A demographic analysis of your user base can reveal the attributes of not only your current users but also prospective users, as illustrated in Figure 4. Understanding key factors such as the needs and wants of users allows you to extrapolate insights about more and more individuals and groups who have the potential to become your customers in the future. As I alluded to earlier, UX research can impact the sales process, particularly by enabling you to deploy account-based marketing (ABM) tactics using UX research data. This is an effective combination that can single-handedly improve the leads coming into your business.
The importance of UX research should be difficult to overlook. However, if we fail to place the user at the center of design, digital products feel hollow and unfocused and users often feel hard done by. While most UX designers understand the importance of UX research and can advocate for it, passing this knowledge on to our clients can be a difficult undertaking. Hopefully, the insights I’ve offered in this column will help you convince your clients to go forward with UX research. They’ll end up with more satisfying user-experience outcomes if they do. Furthermore, I hope that I’ve helped UX designers understand that the value and importance of UX research stretches far beyond the realm of UX design to offer many business benefits. Conducting UX research enables you to gather many types of valuable information.