Whatever your organization does, there’s always opportunity for improvement, and sometimes the best way to find them is by checking in on the end users themselves. It’s a tricky thing to accomplish, to be sure, since there are a lot of intangible factors that play into how an employee might be feeling about their experience at any given moment. However, user experience research can be a great ally to achieve it.
Essentially, user research allows for the study of target users, and finding out their needs and pain points so that managers can obtain a customer’s-eye view of the organization. This helps outline the things about it that are working (or otherwise) from the point of view of an employee. Plus, it helps managers identify key points of improvement as well as processes that have become irrelevant, outdated, or obsolete.
There are various ways of performing user experience research; face-to-face interviews, online and offline surveys, observation, task analysis, and other types of user feedback.
Why is user experience research important?
In the world of UX, constant user feedback is important to figure out how designs can be improved. Observing how users of a software platform struggle to complete a certain task, for example, goes a long way to showing designers whether an icon needs to be larger, a color needs to be lighter, or a hyperlink is too hidden away for easy finding.
Similarly, user research can be used in a broader way to find the users’ pain points in their everyday lives at work to improve the employee experience – whether they’re overwhelmed, whether they’ve been able to complete certain tasks, whether they think they’ve been properly assisted by the help desk, whether they are in need of a different service platform altogether. You want your employees to be as content as they can possibly be, and finding out how to make it happen starts by figuring out where they currently are.
In order to do this, you must choose methods that suit your research’s purpose and will yield the clearest information (figuring out what those methods are can also be tricky – we’ll get to that in a moment). Afterwards, in order to turn that data into insights, you’ll need to interpret these findings. And that can be especially hard, since people sometimes have a hard time understanding why they feel the way they do.
It doesn’t help you much to know that an employee finds a particular task overwhelming or frustrating if you don’t understand why that is. Taking that a step further, you might not be privy to certain elements that influence their emotions at the time of gathering the data, leaving out a lot of useful context that could color how you interpret the data.
There are many factors at play when we talk about converting human emotions to data and turning it into useful insights.
What are the main benefits of user experience research?
The benefits of user experience research are many. Just for starts:
- User benefits - By getting the information straight from your end-users through direct feedback, you are able to identify areas of improvement that will boost the employee experience considerably.
- Product benefits - If your UX research is focused on a particular product, this helps you identify areas of improvement in the product design and overall functionality.
- Business benefits - Simply said, having unhappy customers is bad for business. You want to make sure that morale is in good shape and your users are getting value from the solutions you are providing.
Through user experience research, you’ll be able to:
- Better understand how users experience your products and platforms.
- Discover new customer needs as well as opportunities for your business.
- Optimize internal processes based on the users’ direct feedback.
- Apply the insights learned to provide user experiences that outperform your competitors.
- Get a better understanding of your target audiences.
What are some common methods of user experience research?
There are two main subsets of user experience research: qualitative and quantitative research. Let's take a closer look at each one.
This is the case of interviews and field studies, through which you can have a better understanding of what drives your users’ behavior.
This might involve interviewing a small number of users and asking open-ended questions about their experience and habits, which can help you get sharp insights into what needs to be improved or changed within your organization. Furthermore, this can include different types of usability testing (such as examining users’ stress levels when they’re attempting to complete a task on a platform).
Qualitative research is extremely valuable but you also need to remember that it involves collecting non-numerical data (which is to say, opinions), and findings may be influenced by your own opinions.
Quantitative research refers to more structured methods such as surveys and digital experience monitoring. It attempts to gather measurable data about what users do, as well as test assumptions you developed from qualitative research. Also, it can help you find patterns within a large user group. Of course, with quantitative data you’re not getting a full sense of deeper human insights.
User experience research can also be split into attitudinal (listening to your users’ words – interviews and the like) and behavioral (watching their actions through observational studies). Usually a combination of both methods will provide the best data.
But what about surveys?
Surveys are a very popular tool for managers. And they have their uses: surveys help us measure intangible human reactions, and gather opinions and perceptions of the experiences we deliver every day. These measurements, through analysis, give us the opportunity to know our people better and adapt our services to their needs and expectations.
But this is just one way to focus on improving experiences. Sometimes, simply choosing not to send a survey saves you time, money, and morale.
Surveys typically gather data on several fronts in the experience management field, such as customer satisfaction, customer effort, net promoter scores, and more. The problem with using them this way is that there are various elements that will influence these scores on your service transactions, some of which fall outside of the scope of service.
For instance, is the employee happy in their position at the company? Did they miss a goal or bonus based on the service availability? Was there some loud construction nearby? What kind of technical difficulties were they experiencing?
Context will heavily influence this score, and something as subjective as a scale of 1-10 or 1-5 is difficult to quantify and analyze.
As much as organizations rely on surveys, there are ways to get better, more useful data without negatively impacting your users’ experience, and by avoiding sending surveys at all.