Ask users not stakeholders
The most common problem with UX is based upon a limitation on research set by the clients themselves and the perception that they know ‘their users’. Clients will often reduce or not pay for UX research, but this is like leaving out a building foundation because no one sees it. Research takes many forms each of which adds huge value to the final user experience, while it is possible to fake good experience based upon other technologies the problem is that this will lose the clients competitive advantage and cause users to link this experience to similar ones in a way that opens user choice to alternatives.
Who has the answers?
“But even Amazon has only got part of the picture. Like real world shops, they can only record the sales they actually make. What about the sales they don’t make and don’t know that they haven’t made because they haven’t made them?” Douglas Adams “The Salmon of Doubt” by Permission of Pan Macmillan
Quite succinct really ! and that’s the problem, how can you quantify what has not happened. With web metrics, head counts, ratios of this or that you might say.
User Experience Research answers the question Why have we not made the Sale? through the only people equipped to answer the question, Consumers.
User Experience is not market research but more a problem solving method that offers solutions by finding the right questions and asking the right people.
There are right people to ask?
This may sound a little Adamsesque (if you ask the answer to life, the universe and everything you get 42) but getting the questions wrong in user experience causes research to fail at the same point and the project to flounder.
While it may be reasonably expected by a seller to directly ask, why didn’t a visitor become a buyer or register. Visitors may be asking themselves where am I? what does this do? this does not make sense, should that be happening? technology, why do I bother? Why has my screen gone pink?
A visitors experience is not only defined by the online environment but they bring past experiences, desires and doubts about their current experience. Without these insights it is difficult for designers and clients to grasp potential problems, gain a good return upon their investment or break into a new market sector.