Radosław Misiewicz

UX Designer

Lean UX research: why is it worth including in the design process?

When the subject of research appears in a project, decision-makers often state: "We know our clients, why spend huge resources on it?".

But knowing customers does not mean that we understand how they use the proposed solutions. This knowledge can only be obtained through research, which does not have to be expensive - if we approach it in an agile way.

What are the UX tests? 

1. Exploratory research allows us to understand users and how they work with current systems. Thanks to this we know for whom we create a given product and what goals it will pursue. Research is conducted using ethnographic methods, such as individual interviews or participant observation.

2. Verification tests rely on testing of early projects (even sketches), prototypes or a working system. This allows us to collide the project assumptions with the behavior of real users. Applications can affect various interface elements: from minor (like labels) to fundamental (eg. navigation system or page architecture). Such tests include usability tests.

It is also worth remembering that UX research is different from marketing research. The latter serves to understand the needs and to a greater extent rely on the users' declarations. With their help, we are looking for answers to the question "What do users want? For what solutions will they be willing to pay?", while UX research aims to understand how the users works, what is their context and what they want to achieve.

Agile approach

To provide reliable knowledge on this topic, UX research does not necessarily involve large groups of users. According to perennial article from Norman Nielsen Group, only 5 subjects are needed to detect problems related to 80% of users. With such a small group, studies can often be repeated, verifying subsequent assumptions, while with expensive studies on large groups the results are very often repeated. A larger number of users do not translate into a greater number of applications or increase their quality.
During the research itself, it is best to give users very specific tasks, based on their work with current systems. Such a study may take only 30 minutes, and it will contribute greatly to our understanding of users. Conducting a study on 5 people will take only 2.5 hours.

The entire study, with the preparation of a prototype, scenario and logistics can last less than 5 days. By closing the entire process within one week, we can achieve results that change the perception of the system within the organization and allow better design decisions.

Agile UX research in practice 

Designing a large B2B e-commerce system for one of our clients, we conducted UX research at every stage of the project: from the initial workshops with stakeholders through contextual interviews to tests on early propotypes. 

Research to better understand system users and business needs

We conducted a series of workshops with key departments within the company to better understand the specifics of the business. During one of the first meetings, we created the persona segment of key users. Next, we verified the assumptions regarding the persona and its context through interviews with users from this segment. Interviews became a starting point for us to design: we knew how users used the e-commerce system and what problems were encountered.

Point verification tests

After about two months of work on the new system, we tested the prototype with users and verified key processes. We saw how users navigated the system and what impressed them with the new interface. The conclusions translated into, among others,  the naming and structuring of some sections.

Comprehensive Verification tests

At the end of the project, we plan to polish the project through a comprehensive study of the extended prototype. The user will receive tasks related to their current job: order, settlement or negotiations with the sales department.

Test small, test often

Even for large projects, UX testing does not have to be expensive or involve a large group. The most important thing is that research on a smaller group should be carried out frequently at various stages of the project and reduced to practical conclusions. By integrating them into the design process, we can easily verify hypotheses and make better choices.