The mobile app industry has grown faster than little Jack’s giant beanstalk and continues to grow at exponential rates. The sheer size and opportunities available in the market is an intimidating set of statistics. With the advent of hybrid monetization models such as in-app purchases and advertisements, the booming market has no end in sight.
With the year 2019 just a few weeks away, new changes in the trends of framework and design of the apps show how fast the market and consumer patterns switch. According to Statista, the mobile app industry is expected to cross the threshold of $188.9 by the year 2020.
When the stakes are as high as the said market, how exactly does the new app survive where patterns change quicker than cheetahs chasing their prey? The key to survival in such a competitive environment is none other than ‘user research’. It helps to identify the gaps in the market that you can fill up with your uniqueness of thought and a practical level of creativity.
When you bring the topic of user research in a conversation, a majority of people imply the concept of standard usability testing as the primary mechanism. The importance of usability testing is particularly essential due to the surety it provides for user-centered processes, but there still is an entire spectrum of other elements involved.
We shall dive into the topic of user research and discuss its importance, relevance and the return on investment achieved through better user experiences, created by the said research.
What is meant by User Research?
The initial questions about ‘user research’ also known as ‘design research’ revolve around the exact methods included. It is a broad spectrum, an umbrella term that encompasses everything between ethnographic interviews among the target audience, to quantitative amounts on the return on investment.
The primary concern of every user research is to help bring people to the focal point of the design process and the results of the production. User research aims to inspire the design, evaluate the solutions and provide quantifiable numbers about the impact of your product.
The research employs qualitative and quantitative methods where the former is subjective, and the latter is objective. Qualitative methods include interviews and usability testing (to an extent). These methods provide in-depth knowledge of the daily activities that the consumers engage in, their experiences, etc. Quantitative methods, on the other hand, involve numeric data such as formal surveys and experiments that help to measure user behavior.
The use of each method has its own set of pros and cons since each is utilized to achieve a different goal. Your choice of method entirely depends on practical concerns such as the project itself, the budget and time constraints.
Why is User Research Important?
Empathy is at the heart of design, Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, the design is a pointless task. – Tim Brown, CEO, IDEO
The method of user research should take into account the process of your work and also the logical reasoning behind the whole research. The fundamental essence of user research is to create relevant designs that reflect usability for a customer.
This adds a touch of pleasure for the consumer while he uses the app and helps the researcher to understand the financial aspect of ROI of the user experience provided by design.
We shall now take into account each of these reasons for analysis to develop the idea of user research.
To create relevant designs for the User
The most significant reason to hold user research is the fact that it is a singular way to build the understanding of the target audience. Getting know-how of the people who use the app that you design, makes your creation relevant to them.
A lack of a clear understanding of your customers’ lives and daily habits could lead to a massive failure. An irrelevant design would always remain useless.
Design thinking utilization will introduce you to the first step in the direction of your dreams, but the core of the process is actually to empathize with the users. User research is precisely the ideal way of achieving that goal.
Observations and interviews centered around the prospective situation where the consumer can use your app are a conventional method. This type of research is usually placed at the initial stage of the project to ensure that the entire project remains relevant to the potential users and customers.
To keep your design intact, it is essential for you to be in constant contact with prospective consumers about their perceptions of your imagination. Direct involvement of the target audience in the design process would help in keeping your product pertinent to their requirements.
The aspects of pleasure and ease
The legendary co-founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs stated
If the user is having a problem, it’s our problem.
Each product aims to maintain a high level of usability which translates it into being easy to use; User tests are the most significant aid in this regard. The digital age disapproves the use of high tech to be limited to the laboratories occupied by scientists at NASA.
The consumers expect the app to be easy to learn and more comfortable to use. If you neglect the user experience in the design process, your consumers are likely to abandon your app and move to better options. Even in zero competition cases, a high level of user ease and comfort is the key to a commercially successful app.
The customers will continue to appreciate your efforts limited to the usage of the app. Even in cases of high specialty work-related applications, where alternatives are merely impossible, the products carrying high levels of usability will make work efficient, safer and also faster.
An ideal example to explain the importance of user experience is none other than the Wikiwand. It is a company that lives off providing an excellent experience to users of Wikipedia. It changes the design and makes it appealing to the eyes creating a user-friendly outlook. It may not be providing different contents, but its thousands of users appreciate the brilliant feel that the plugin offers.
The Return on Investment from the UX Design
Despite the clear establishment of why good design is necessary for the survival and growth of the app, there is still an evident lack of funding for the user research. Since UX Design and user research is an intangible element of the app, it is hard for the stakeholders and executives to realize the importance of the two.
Had these been easy to view like a new feature or a persistent bug, there would have been no obstructions in the investments. In cases of scarce resources, the first cuts are made in the budget for UX Design which could lead to disapproval from the users.
Since the aftermath of these cuts is not as immediate as reducing a few features or using a buggy software, the damage is only experienced by the users and not the investors.
Studies that reflect the return on investment from the UX Design come in handy at these places, to prove that the effort and investment are worth the weight in gold and silver. If you demonstrate that the changes result in greater sales, more customers and higher efficiency in the work process, your case for getting the investment becomes stronger.
The prime example of putting the customer experience before anything else, is the internet’s retail giant, Amazon. They look into their customers throughout the sales journey and measure their experience continually.
Jeff Bezos has put forward that concentration on user experience that helps in accomplishing long-term goals rather than short-term goals of profit, despite knowing the wishes of the shareholders who prefer to gain on the spot.
The user analysis is a fundamental part of the design process at every stage. Initial study before beginning the design will help you to understand the needs of your target audience. Continuous tests with the consumers ensure the progress of the project and help to measure the impact of your product after the design. This is the ‘holy trinity’ mechanism that keeps you way ahead of every dimension. It considers, analyzes and tests the results of the ultimate ROI and thus leads you to a sure victory.