Since budgets aren’t limitless, user research often takes a backseat when it comes to site redevelopment projects. This is due to the intangible nature of research outputs, which can make research seem less valuable compared to more concrete deliverables such as design mock-ups or lines of code.
However, no matter how much you know your customers, research is invaluable at preventing mistakes and unlocking new aspects about your end users, which can in turn strengthen your new site and your customers’ loyalty for your brand.
From a better understanding of user behaviour to maximising user data, let’s take a look at how research can add value to your next new website.
1. Unexpected differences between user groups
The difference between user groups can be more complex than anticipated. Even if you have a clear understanding of your target audience, it may be worth rethinking your assumptions. Users who belong to the same group can often be further categorised based on their needs and objectives.
For example, through interviews you may find that each audience could be further split into subgroups, each with unique content requirements. This will ultimately impact the re-organisation of web content, resulting in a different but far more useful information architecture (site content structure) for the end users.
2. A deeper understanding of user behaviour
Learning how your users navigate an existing website should deepen the understanding of the site’s best and worst features. Performing usability testing during research helps to confirm the most trafficked areas as opposed to the least used sections of a website. Users are typically not the best at recalling how they use or navigate a website. Instead of relying on their answers, have them perform tasks on the site so that their actual behaviour can be recorded. These behaviours will highlight the areas to improve on for the redevelopment project.
Asking users to complete tasks on your competitors’ websites can show you which site structures and designs they are comfortable with and what their expectations might be for your new website. The insights gleaned from the research should serve to drive the design process and direction of the new site.
3. Features to prioritise
In a perfect world, you could add every dream feature to your new ideal website. In reality, we would probably have to compromise and prioritise on the rebuild, aiming to capture the most important functionality while figuring out which features to delay until Phase 2.
User research should help to separate priority features from those that are less urgent to incorporate in the Phase 1. If your team is at odds about what to include in the scope, we recommend a combination of user interviews and usability testing to determine the focus areas for redevelopment.
4. User research is good for the business
A study by Forrester found that every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return — that’s a staggering 9900% return on investment.
Hence user research should not be seen as optional. It should be seen as a strategic tool that connects businesses with customers, sets a clear direction for products and services, and empowers the entire organisation to learn and grow.
A couple of ways that research is crucial during uncertain economic times:
- It aligns teams and maximises efficiency: having a clearly-defined set of goals, driven by data and user feedback, is crucial to keeping the whole team focused on the objective. Use research to validate and evidence your redesign roadmap, unite the development team, and boost productivity.
- It gets ahead of the competition: connecting with customers during uncertain times is a guaranteed way to increase retention and loyalty. Showing you value their opinions and want to hear how they're doing, and how you can help, builds connection. By understanding your customers better, you can create a user-centred website that stands out.
The impact of user research extends beyond the needs of a site redevelopment project, and acts as a knowledge bank for the brand and its evolving products and services.
By investing in user research, businesses prioritise their customers, make data-driven decisions, and produce a website that deepens the relationship with end users.
5. Maximising the power of data
While data provides valuable insights, relying solely on quantitative data can lead to inaccurate or incomplete conclusions. User research offers a host of feedback, data types, and metrics that complement quantitative analysis. Data from the research sheds light on the problem's context, user behaviour, and expectations, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions for the new website.
By combining data from different research methods, you could gain a deeper understanding of your customers.
Per Lindstrand, Spotify’s Product Manager, explains: "More often than not, the context and questions will change as you learn more about the problem. Be nimble, be adaptable, and listen."
While user research provides qualitative and quantitative data, the resulting reports aren’t regarded as quick and concrete contributors towards a website redevelopment project. Hence, it is quite often the first thing that gets cut when revamping a site.
However, prioritising user research and embracing a user-centred approach could challenge existing assumptions about your customers and target audience, and reveal new insights that yields a redesigned site that is not only more user friendly but serves to deepen brand loyalty among customers.
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