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Research-driven design: The role of research and UX to create successful digital products

A hand drawing wireframes on a tablet.

It’s no secret that superior experience design is an essential feature of world-class digital products. Brands that prioritize UX and customer experience can generate nearly six times more revenue than those that don’t.

Unfortunately, we still see product teams that operate under a “Field of Dreams” fallacy: “If you build it, they will come.” Digital products may be built based on assumptions or because it matches what competitors are already doing. Alternatively, if product teams are limited in budget, scope, time or capabilities, then user testing and insight gathering can get the short straw.

The key to creating a superior experience design is not an exceptional user interface or on-trend and in step with your competitors (though, that’s part of it); it’s understanding and solving for the needs and desires of your users – asking ourselves:

  • What are their goals?
  • What problems are they trying to solve?
  • What pain are they experiencing?

Your users should be at the center of everything you do. User research and collaboration with a broad range of experts are critical for success. Understanding your users’ motives and pain points requires research to shape a solution that offers high-value benefits. This doesn’t mean months of discovery work.

Instead of building it (digital products) and expecting them to come, build it SO they (your users) come and choose your product again and again.

Research in action

Recently, Nerdery worked with a large trucking company to research their user needs and competitive landscape – in this case, owner-operator truck drivers. Research led to developing a first-of-its-kind, easy-to-use application to increase efficiency and cut down on costs.

Read case study

Whether your research is qualitative or quantitative, it should occur throughout the entire product lifecycle (Figure 1).
  • Pre-launch (Empathize and Define): Develop a clear understanding of user needs, goals, and pain points the digital solution must address.
  • Usability testing and feedback (Ideate & Prototype): Understand user perceptions, likes, and dislikes about the product experience. Incorporate key accessibility principles early in the product life cycle through consistent usability testing. Note and prioritize features for future refinement. 
  • Soft-launch (Implement): Analyze minimum viable product (MVP) effectiveness and identify critical areas for improvement and change.
  • Post-launch (Iterate): Evaluate continuously to build and maintain user satisfaction and ensure product quality.
Product lifecycle animated graphic.

Applying research to UX

During the pandemic, subscription services and other online digital products boomed in popularity, and that trend is still full-force. As a result, B2C – and even B2B organizations – are investing in digital transformation. Because of the ubiquity of these products, consumers have a lot to choose from and will no longer tolerate cumbersome user experiences. For that reason, business leaders are investing in superior UX and CX, and designers are partnering with researchers, working more closely to give users what they want.

Experience design is deeply rooted in empathy and radically focused on human and business outcomes. It doesn’t stop at the empathize and define phases; it’s essential to gather and implement feedback and insights into every design iteration. The best way to achieve that is, by having insights, strategy, design and technology teams work collaboratively and in tandem.
Input from multiple perspectives, along with research and insights, help you develop a sound product roadmap while minimizing risk.

Every digital product is designed with unique functions and capabilities, but every journey to get there requires answers to five pivotal questions:

  1. Do we understand the users’ pain points?
  2. Have we identified user experience areas to encourage stickiness or productive friction?
  3. Does our solution solve user problems?
  4. Have we filled the gap left by other products?
  5. Do we have a plan to prioritize resources and features? 

The goal for every digital product should be to achieve deeper connections with customers to speed up time to value, so they continue to choose your product time and again. When research and design work together, they are more likely to achieve business outcomes and help ensure product loyalty.

Want to learn more about research-backed design?

Find out more about the process as part of Nerdery’s product framing service.

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