WHY USER EXPERIENCE RESEARCH MATTERS
For those of you who may not be familiar with User Experience Research, I’ll give you a brief introduction: it is a form of research where websites, apps, and digital products or services are evaluated at any stage in the development process—and with actual users—to learn their behaviors and perceptions, measure usability, and ultimately gather insights into how a company can optimize their digital platform so that it is most appealing to its customers. And though some forms of User Experience Research have been in existence for just about as long as Campos has—close to 30 years—now, more than ever, we are seeing an overwhelming need for this specialized area of research.
Clients are coming to us with all kinds of problems where user research can help: they have a website that has been launched and their analytics show that users are dropping off on a certain page, so they would like to understand why, or they’re revamping their site with a whole new design and want to find out what users like or don’t like about it. Whatever the problem may be, companies are realizing that the importance of their customer-facing digital platforms is a key component to their brand’s communications, integrity, and ultimate success.
Several months ago, a large energy company in the U.S. came to us while they were in the beginning stages of developing a new website for their business customers, and were primarily concerned with the inclusion of a new tool that would be incorporated on the site: would users find it intuitive? If so, would they even use it at all?
I will say, User Experience Research can be done at any stage in the website development process, but early on like this is not only more fun for me (because I enjoy the conceptual stages where there is opportunity for creative recommendations), but it is more cost effective for the company developing the digital platform. I say this because changing what is known as the “information architecture”—or, in layman’s terms, the sort of skeleton—of the website once it is already developed is much more likely to cause a snag in re-development and lead to more spending.
Knowing this, our energy client came to us at the right time, and we went forward with the first phase of a usability study, testing a very conceptual website design that had limited clickability—not to say that we didn’t gain some extremely valuable insights. In fact, I think the most important outcome of the study was in finding that a button that had been active on their site for several years, which they planned on carrying over in the new design, was actually throwing their business customers off and setting expectations that were not being met. The opportunity to fill out their information and “Request a Quote” was setting the expectation that pricing would be the outcome once the button was clicked, and that was not in fact the case. The reality was, because requesting a quote for a business’s energy is a complicated process, this company could only promise that they would contact the customer for more information within the next 24-hours.
What we did learn that customers would like to see in this case was an option to choose a method and time of contact, if they were going to be receiving a follow up call or email. Though this second learning was important for our client, the lesson here is more about not setting expectations that cannot be met. This is the value of talking to actual users—even learnings that may seem so minor can cause a significant shift in how users perceive the brand and ultimately can determine a business’s success.