The Importance of User Research

Thought Leadership

By Rabiya Samji | April 20, 2020
UX layout

As the world adjusts to life during the coronavirus pandemic, digital products and services have become a key part of keeping us connected in this age of physical distancing. Companies are racing to keep up by finding innovative ways to reach their audience through digital tools, but in the rush, many are missing out on one important step — user research. And that’s a major problem because user research is a component that can either make or break a digital product’s success.

No matter how much experience we have in developing and using products, seeing how users actually interact with them is essential to ensuring the product’s future adoption and growth. This tangible feedback can expose anything ranging from the latent needs of your users to potential obstacles or barriers they may be experiencing with your product.

That’s why user research is such a critical part of your product’s success. There are a few especially crucial moments in the product development process to pause and consider the importance of user research:

  • Discovery phase: The first time to consider some form of user feedback is while discussing the scope and strategy of the project. At this stage, user feedback is generally solicited both indirectly and directly from users. Here at Apply Digital, we work closely with our clients at this stage to try to capture their understanding of the users and analyze any of their existing customer data (e.g., NPS, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, Support call records, etc.) to gain further insights. We also interview actual or potential customers in order to gain insights into their goals, needs, and motivations and how these relate to the product and brand. These insights give us a clearer roadmap for our future customer journey. Finally, we conduct extensive market research to understand the broader trends surrounding the needs, behaviors, and journeys of particular user types.

  • Wireframing and prototyping: Another important moment for user research comes while our UX and UI teams are designing the interface of the product. We develop an engageable prototype and work with users to see how they respond to it, identifying anything that isn’t clear or just doesn’t feel natural.

  • Prior to launch: Once your product is fully developed and engineered, we do a final round of user testing to solicit additional feedback. Testing at this stage is crucial as it can help catch major red flags and ensure that the product launch is free of bugs.

Research shows that gaining a deeper understanding of users and how they engage with a product correlates with some positive outcomes:

  • Increased revenue: McKinsey has reported that improving the customer journey increases revenues by as much as 10–15%, and lowers costs by 15–20%.

  • Increased conversion rates: CX research done by Forrester found that a better user interface (UI) could raise your website’s conversion rate by 200%, and a better user experience (UX) design could yield conversion rates of up to 400%.

Here are a few more ways user research is important for the success of your digital product in the long run.

Keeping your product in line with your business goals

Every digital product is developed with a specific business objective in mind. But that alone isn’t enough to make sure that your product will meet these needs. Thorough user research is the only way to ensure that you’re on the right path to your goals.

Graphs and Data

Consider what your product offers, and how that can contribute to your overall business goals. Imagine you are a local gym that has decided to offer training classes online to reach people that are socially distancing at home. Think about whether your product has an easy-to-use interface? What content will keep your users engaged? Does it need a recommendation engine to capture the user’s interest? If you miss out on the right elements, you risk losing your user base.

User research is one important way to track what elements matter most to your users, so you can direct your development in the right direction from the get-go.

Catching major red flags before launch

It’s no secret that in the digital product world, the time between concept and launch can race by at lightning speeds. Especially in times like these when the economy is shifting drastically on a daily basis, products can be built mostly based on assumptions, to ensure a timely launch. But this breakneck pace can also be a recipe for disaster.

Computer with Red Background

One notable example of this is an app created to support the 2020 Iowa Democratic Presidential Primary elections. Created in less than 2 months, this app completely failed to serve its purpose.

Engaging in user research and testing could have prevented this, letting the development team spot its blind spots and make necessary changes to the platform prior to election day.

At Apply Digital, we take an agile approach to digital product development, collecting data every step of the way and using it to inform our decisions. Our user research plan includes using real people, creating ‘real world’ conditions where possible, and putting aside personal biases and attachments to product features in order to open the door for real feedback. That way, we can both get a product to market quickly and also ensure we avoid the pitfalls of a fast development process.

Setting up your customer service team for success

The simple fact is that no product will be perfect when it hits the market. That’s why it’s extremely helpful to get the product in the hands of actual users so that issues can be discovered and addressed before the product is released on a massive scale.

People Using Computers

These test runs also set your customer service teams up for success because they’ll be aware of any pre-known issues and can develop a game plan to address them before they’re swamped by requests from actual customers. Armed with this insight, they can also better create a learning feedback loop, to help you understand what issues they are hearing, and why those issues are arising.

An on-going process

User research is a continuous process. No matter where you’re at in a product’s life cycle, user research is always going to be part of your logical next move. A good product stands the test of time because its creators are constantly improving the experience, adding in elements, and using updates as an opportunity to streamline the experience.

That is why user research is fast becoming the preferred approach of C-Suite executives across industries. This upward trend is reflected in larger budget slices being set aside for user research activities.”

To find out more about how Apply Digital’s smart design and development process has fueled the creation of many award-winning digital products, write to us at