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Why You Should Do Your Own User Research [+Tips For Getting Started]

   

Typically, when a company wants to launch a new product or service, they will include some user research into the mix before actually diving into development. It has been emphasized time and time again, by all kinds of design experts, that user research is absolutely indispensable to the launch of, well— just about anything. 

Often, companies will outsource and hire external agencies to handle user research. They explain their product, the target they want to reach, and any particular pain points or points of interest. With that information in hand, researchers set off to gather viable users and begin working, while clients wait for research results from anywhere from several weeks to several months. 

Though outsourcing user research seems efficient, it sometimes lets us overlook the human connection that drives the creation of a product or service that truly meets the needs of real people. Here at Neuromagic we believe that taking the time to put out the correct product is more important than taking shortcuts and putting out a product that will fail and need redesign. 

So, we’d like to propose something— do the research yourself! Meet your user. 

An interviewee and an interviewer shaking hands at a user interview.

Who Knows Your Brand Best?

You! So who will be able to communicate its true values, benefits and features? Who will be able to notice the nuances in user expressions that can lead to less obvious opportunities within your product? Who knows what your product (or service) can offer? You guessed it. 

User research done by internal teams who are deeply involved with the product ensure meaningful insights that apply directly to the product being developed. 

User research done by internal teams who are deeply involved with the product ensure meaningful insights that apply directly to the product being developed. 

Who Needs to Understand the User?

That’s right… you do! Though beautifully organized data and infographics are pleasant to look at and can illustrate interesting insights— they alone probably won’t show you a user’s feelings. Facial expressions, body language, emotional reactions— these are real human factors that are important to take into account when conducting research and trying to understand deeply who you are designing for.

Simply put, users are not just “users,” they are people like you and me. In fact, you may even be within the target group for the product or service you are developing. Bypassing in-person interactions with your users, can lead to overlooking their individuality and their freedom of choice as consumers (or businesses, in the case of business-to-business products or services).

To truly feel empowered in the design process, we recommend facing your users and getting to know them yourself.

But Wait, I’m Not a Research Professional…

Maybe you aren’t a user research professional. You could be an engineer, web designer, or marketer. Depending on your position, talking directly to users might be totally new to you. Sometimes, you might start to feel you’re forgetting just who you’re creating products and services for, since you aren’t interacting with users and hearing their feedback regularly.

We’ve actually found that this is often just as true for larger companies as it is for smaller. It is quite easy for larger companies to lose sight of the humanness of their consumers altogether, surrounded constantly by numbers and KPIs, with little necessary contact with consumers on a day-to-day basis. 

But this realization is nothing to be ashamed of— in fact, it is the first step towards doing more meaningful and exciting work.

A user sharing his thoughts during a user interview.

Before diving into user research, you will need a bit of training and supervision. Not only is it a bit intimidating, it really is imperative that you use the right techniques in order to get truly valuable results. When we at Neuromagic work with clients to develop new products or services, we always begin by encouraging user research in the form of in-depth interviews. In order to get truly valuable insights, we believe it is important to maintain a balance between quantitative and qualitative data, leaning on qualitative data for the bulk of your conceptual development.

An in-depth interview should be anywhere from 50 minutes to two hours. With the proper technique, it can withdraw some very important insights.

To help you get started, here are a few important tips:   

5 User Interview Tips

  1. Be aware of contradictions – contractions between statements and actions are not uncommon, and interesting hints may be hidden there.
  2. Write down answers as they are – if you or an observer are taking notes, or you are transcribing, avoid paraphrasing or you may miss out on nuances.
  3. Focus on non-verbal information – body language and emotions can tell us a lot! Make note of anything you notice.
  4. Don’t be afraid of silence – respondents may need time to think about your question and reflect on their statements or ideas— if you allow this time, they can draw words from a deeper place. Don’t feel pressure to fill silence!
  5. Don’t propose your own answer – Never ask “By that, do you mean X?” In other words, don’t ask leading questions which show your bias to the respondent, as they may unintentionally try to meet your expectations.

Bonus – Motivation!

Another bonus benefit (one that we here at Neuromagic cherish) is that working closely with your users can bring new motivation into your workflow. Now that you know the effect that your product or service can have when done well, or the frustration it can cause when done poorly— we find that clients are fired up about working on projects they may have felt stuck on before.

A team in an office going over in-depth user interview findings.

Look, just to be clear, we’re not saying you should dump all hired research professionals and just start doing all user research on your own. There’s a lot of value in having research done by people who are trained specifically to find user insights—especially if your team is pressed for time and unable to schedule in-depth interviews. What we are saying is that user research is something that everyone in the product and service development process should take into serious consideration, and that giving it a go, at least once, will lead to greater understanding of the product, the user, and the purpose of your job. 

Now get out there and give it a go! And please feel free to contact us so we can help set you off on the right track towards learning about your user and taking control of the research process.

Elena Iwata

Digital Marketer
Originally from Philadelphia, PA, USA, Elena is passionate about storytelling and designing for equity. Her current focus is on content strategy and creation, from research, to writing and photography.

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