Why Your Company Needs to Have a UX Researcher

By Danielle Duijst, UX Researcher

A man using a tablet with smiley face icons on it

There’s a rule of thumb with UX that says for every $1 you invest in your user experience, you save $10 in development and $100 in post-release maintenance.

To put it another way, how do you know what you should build if you don’t know anything about your user?

These are just some of the reasons why your company needs a UX researcher to find out who your users are, what they need, and how you can do better than your competitors by fulfilling this need more than they do.

You can, of course, run experiments on your websites to see what works best, but you’ll save so much time if your end users have already indicated what their main pain points or issues are with the tasks they’re trying to perform.

I’m a UX researcher, and a product manager might come to me and say: “We need to understand more about what kind of people use our products, how they use our products and what kind of problems they experience when trying to achieve their goals.”

Research methods

The methods of research depend on what’s in the toolbox for the UX researcher and the specific question we need to have answered, but we would do certain types of research on the topic.

Usually we do qualitative research, to understand why people behave in certain ways and to understand the reasoning behind our user’s behaviour, pains and needs. Sometimes we need quantitative research when we have to answer questions like: “How many people are affected by this problem?”

And sometimes we don’t need to do research at all, we can analyse data found in Google Analytics etc, to answer the question of the PM or other stakeholders.

When interviewing users (instead of doing usability tests) you find answers to questions like “Why do users (dis)trust our website?” or “Why do people use our site?”

When doing interviews, we mainly ask open questions, so we can discover new insights and ask more questions about them, to learn why that issue is important to the user.

Usability testing can be used for queries like: “How can we improve the sign-up process for our websites?” or “What are the biggest pain points our users experience with our product?”

There’s lots of ways to get that connection and insight from users. You can use a tool that provides you with a market panel to interview, so it’s not your actual users but people who use similar products to yours. They then see your website and you get their feedback on it. They know the kind of problems there can be on sites like yours, and that’s what we’re after.

Ideally you would interview your live site users, but sometimes your own users can be hard to reach, or they maybe don’t like to be recorded. We are actively working on getting them to participate, but we need to arrange an incentive for them to give their time. But even if you need to pay them to get their feedback on your new site, it’ll pay off in other ways because you’ll identify issues earlier on in the process.

The challenge is to find the best method of getting user insights, which is time and cost-effective which will bring you the best quality of answers. You then need to think about what you do when you gather your insights – how are you going to present it? How will other people in your team best be able to digest it? In charts, in video clips, in a database, in an Excel sheet?

Conducting this research is very time-consuming but that’s why you need a UX researcher doing this kind of work, and not a UX designer.

People gathered around notes and plans and a laptop

UX designers usually don’t have the background to run proper analysis and distinguish when results are significant or not, nor do they have the time to do in-depth research and analysis. That’s why you need UX researchers to carry out that kind of research.

Also, if you design your own website, you get attached to it. So when you’re doing the testing you’re looking to get specific answers, so you’ll always have a bias towards getting those answers – it’s called confirmation bias. A third-party researcher won’t have that attachment to the work that’s been done and will be more neutral about the results.

The biggest risk of having UX designers doing UX research, especially quantitative research, is that they won’t always be able to distinguish when a problem is “significant” and that can make you focus on the wrong problems.

Here’s a good summary of why your company needs to have a UX researcher:

  • You’ll get a boosted rate of revenue and conversion, because of greater ease of use and a better emotional attachment to the brand, which will result in customer loyalty
  • There will be an increase in both customer and business-to-business satisfaction – because customers love well-designed products which provide what they need and want (as well as what they don’t even know they need and want)
  • You’ll need fewer support calls, because you’ll have pre-empted many of the probable user problems via UX techniques, which will lower costs
  • There will be reduced development waste, which increases development efficiency and saves money in the development phase
  • You’ll have a reduced risk of building the wrong thing, because user research is how you find out what your customers will consider to be the most usable and valuable things

Having UX experts working on your products, advising which method works best in which case, learning what users need, like and don’t like, are the best ways to build better products, increase the quality of what you offer and ultimately make you stand out among your competitors.