October 26th, 2015

Kicking-off a technology project, whether it be a website, portal, reporting system, or consumer-facing application, is exciting. It’s probably been a topic of conversation in your office for a long time, so you’re anxious to get started as soon as possible. You’re dreaming up functionality, color palettes, integrations – all the things that are going to make you end-product stand out in the crowd.

We completely understand your fervor to get started. We really do.

But have you thought about conducting research on your current and future user-base before solidifying your plans? Because – wouldn’t it be helpful to create an evidence based plan that allows you to craft messaging, organize functionality, prioritize offerings, etc with confidence?

As an internal stakeholder, you will never be able to put yourself in your users’ shoes. Only your users can provide the type of unbiased feedback that will point your new or revamped tool/site/system in the right direction to achieve the financial goals, engagement rates, retention numbers, user interactions, etc you are seeking.

All that said, reserving space in your budget and/or project calendar for user research is so commonly ignored or overlooked. But it shouldn’t be regarded as a delay in your project start-date or an unexpected cost that weighs down your budget.

Here are three great reasons to make research the first step in your project plan:

1. Knowing your targets users ensures that functionality anticipates – and delivers on – their needs.

When you take the time to understand your users and how they interact with your product, amazing realizations come to light. Let’s say you are creating a mobile app for an online banking website. You could simply repeat the desktop experience – OR – you could poll users to find out what functions they use most on-the-go. Make sure those functions (perhaps mobile deposits and fund transfers) are front and center on the app dashboard screen – and your users will never need to hunt for the functionality they rely on most.

2. Surveying the competition makes you smarter.

In addition to researching your users, it’s key to conduct competitive analysis of other companies in your industry. Analyze their approach to determine what they are doing well and what they are lacking. Remember to consider the public’s perception of your competitors as well. You never have to go far to find user reviews or blog posts and those can be very revealing. If you are able to conduct user interviews or focus groups, these are great opportunities to speak with your competitors’ customers and discuss the reasons behind their allegiance.

3. Research ALWAYS saves time and money in the long run.

Conducting research helps to avoid the missteps that would inevitably be uncovered during user testing. Making changes during the initial phases of a project – when you are strategizing, sketching, and solidifying requirements – are infinitely more economical than attempting to change functional or design features in the final stages of a project. When you research first, it’s less likely you will need to make drastic adjustments during development because you had your user in mind when building – and that means your project stays on time and on budget. What could be better?

Have questions about our research practice? We would love to chat!