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Three Benefits of Upfront User Research


We regularly get called upon to evaluate the usability of various websites or application UIs. In many cases, we’re evaluating a website, an application, or piece of hardware that’s already very far along in the development process (i.e., basically finished), and now the client would like a user testing evaluation.

This has always really baffled me! How can you create something for someone else without so much as an inkling of what they might need? Imagine building a house for someone only to realize after you’re all done that the house needs to be wheelchair accessible. I bet you’d wish you had known that from the beginning and would have done things differently if you had.

Unfortunately, we run into the “I wish I had known that from the beginning” A LOT in our line of work and here’s why we think upfront user research is so important:


Avoiding Surprises Saves Time and Money
Investing in upfront user research can save a lot of time and money as redesigns can be costly and demoralizing. Quite often we’re called in during the final stages of product development after dozens, sometimes hundreds, of hours have been spent redesigning a website or developing a new application interface. Unfortunately, the results of post-development summative user testing is rarely predictable and clients are never excited to learn that the product they’ve been developing for the past year doesn’t really meet their users’ needs.


Focusing Developmental Resources
Upfront user research can hone developmental goals and help prevent scope creep. Understanding who your users are, what your users need, and how your users interact with your product can help refine your understanding of the problem space and allow you and your team to focus developmental resources on the area(s) that will make the most impact. Time and time again we’ve called upon to evaluate an interface that’s had a number of while-your-at-it’s thrown in with the end results being a user-interface that meets neither the users’ needs nor the project’s goals.


Getting Early Design Guidance
Upfront user research can influence the look and feel of your preliminary design work which in turn can heavily influence the final user experience. Lacking a solid understanding of your users’ characteristics can set your UX designers on a stray path. Frequently we encounter UX teams who are already married to a specific design and are resistant to change regardless of any user research outcomes. Having early design guidance can help positively influence the outcomes of subsequent design work.


Did we miss a reason why you should be conducting upfront user research? Let us know in the comments below!

Are you interested in conducting user research on your website or application? Normal Modes has the experience and expertise to get you the answers you need. Learn how Normal Modes can use usability testing and other user experience methodologies to answer your user research questions today.