If you ask me what lies at the core of my role as a UX researcher, I would previously have said: “Problem-solving.” The natural inclination upon encountering a challenge was to dive right in, asking, “How can I tackle this?” The dilemma with this passionate approach was manifold:
- I often found myself overwhelmed, stretching thin to address multiple challenges at once.
- Securing the necessary support and resources to resolve issues often proved elusive.
- The excitement waned once a solution was in the works, making me susceptible to the allure of the next challenge.
Nowadays, my perspective has evolved. Enhancing value — concentrating on those challenges that bring significant improvement for the end-users, is where I aim my sights. Ironically, by fixating less on problems and more on value, I’ve become more adept at problem-solving.
I can’t say I don’t feel the constant allure of seeing an exciting challenge in everything, but by following the route I have outlined below, I find my time better spent overall.
This is where you ascertain if a problem is worth your attention. Whether you stumbled upon it through customer feedback or dialogue with stakeholders, it’s akin to determining if someone you admire is worth pursuing.
1. Is this the root issue or a surface symptom?
Before leaping to solve an apparent issue, like fixing navigation difficulties on a website, consider if you’re treating a symptom rather than the root problem. Could the real issue be that the service isn’t fulfilling user needs, or perhaps it’s misaligned with the market demands? Thorough qualitative and quantitative research is indispensable here.
2. What’s the real-world impact on users?
Evaluating a problem’s impact involves more than just labelling it as ‘critical’ or ‘non-critical.’ Examine its reach (how many users are affected), intensity (degree of inconvenience), and relevance to different user segments. Quantify these dimensions to gauge the issue’s overall significance.
3. Does resolving this issue serve the business goals?
Sometimes what users require and what suits the company’s objectives are not in sync. In such cases, consider the long-term implications for the company. Neglecting a problem now may erode user trust and dent profitability in the long run.
4. Is the issue in harmony with the company’s strategic vision?
Even if solving a problem brings user benefits and aligns with business objectives, it may clash with the organisation’s long-term vision. For example, prioritising a desktop feature when your company aims to focus on mobile is counterproductive.
5. What would you forfeit to address this?
Resources are finite. Choosing to tackle one issue necessitates sidelining others. Ponder the opportunity costs — what other valuable task would be deferred?
6. What’s the downside of inaction?
Costs of delay can vary. Some issues escalate into a blaze that can decimate your hard work, while others deteriorate slowly, like a decaying rooftop, until a crisis occurs. Yet others are more benign, akin to a minor obstruction one can navigate around.
Going through the above steps paves the way for informed problem-solving, keeping focus not just on alleviating user pain points, but also on contributing meaningful, long-term value to both the user and the business.
Think of it as choosing a good book to read. When you’re not preoccupied with a specific genre or author, you have the freedom to explore an array of possibilities. This kind of open-minded approach is generally what sets senior UX researchers apart from less experienced ones. The seniors are always on the lookout for transformative avenues of inquiry that can truly elevate user experience.
7: What Drives User Behaviour?
Instead of solely focusing on minor glitches or navigation issues, it’s imperative to apply the Jobs-To-Be-Done (JTBD) framework. Let’s say someone uses a meal-kit delivery service; their ultimate goal isn’t merely to cook food, but perhaps to save time or explore new cuisines. Here, the competition isn’t just other meal-kit companies but also fast-food deliveries, cooking tutorials, or even grocery stores.
Appreciating why users ‘employ’ your service allows you to more effectively enhance their experience. For example, Spotify recognised that users wanted not just a music repository but also personalised playlists, thus was born Spotify’s Discover Weekly feature.
8: Fortifying User Stickiness
In medieval times, a moat served as a fortified boundary to protect a castle. In UX research, creating a ‘moat’ translates to designing an experience that discourages users from switching to a competitor.
One effective way to achieve this is through building community engagement. Platforms like LinkedIn are a great example where the value for each user increases with the number of active participants, creating a robust professional network.
Beyond community engagement, additional ‘moats’ can be developed through exceptional customer service, personalisation, or even exclusive content.
9: Forecasting the Upstart Challenger
You may have initiated your project with the purpose of disrupting a stagnant market, naming entrenched players as your competitors. Yet, it’s crucial to remember that you too can become obsolete if you don’t keep evolving.
A budding entrepreneur will point out the shortcomings of your platform. If you aren’t constantly improving, you’re vulnerable to displacement by the next innovation. Read about how 3 once-startups disrupted their industries and continue to dominate in ever changing climates in our Unlocking growth when you are being disrupted article.
10: Threats that Could Render Us Obsolete
While occurrences like pandemics are rare, they serve as a reminder that unanticipated events can critically impact businesses. But it’s not just cataclysmic events that pose a threat; regulatory changes and shifts in societal behaviour (like the adoption of telecommuting or 5G technology) could also make your product less relevant.
In the UX world, the spotlight is often exclusively on identifying the problem. However, finding an effective solution is equally crucial.
11: What Resources Shall We Commit?
In essence, how much time and manpower are we willing to allocate? It’s critical to establish these parameters early on to prevent scope creep, as suggested by Parkinson’s Law.
12: What’s the Art of the Possible?
The ideal solution should align with user needs, business objectives, and technological constraints. Once you’ve done your preliminary analysis, the next step is to consult the technical team to gauge feasibility.
13: Where’s the Efficacy Limit?
An elaborate solution isn’t always the best one. Sometimes, a simpler version that can be built more quickly may fulfil 80% of the user’s needs. You can then incrementally refine the solution based on real-world feedback, rather than investing too much upfront.
14: Anticipating Detractors
Imagine you’re a critic. This exercise can help you identify gaps in your proposed solution. Even negative press coverage can provide invaluable insights; remember when headlines blared, ‘Twitter Promotes Toxic Conversations’?
15: Identifying and Mitigating Risks
Every solution rests on a set of assumptions that vary in importance and certainty. Mapping these out helps in focusing on the riskier aspects that need to be validated first.
16: What’s the Minimum Valuable Solution?
Instead of a feature-laden release, consider a phased approach. Releasing core functionalities first allows you to validate your solution’s effectiveness more quickly. If you want to know more what to include in an MVP, we have a few tips in our What should I include in my MVP blog.
17: Should Someone Else Take the Lead?
After extensive investigation and preparation, it may be worthwhile to hand the project over to a junior researcher. This delegation not only aids in their professional growth but also allows you to shift your focus onto broader, more impactful issues.
Staying ahead of the curve isn’t just an advantage… it’s a necessity. Whether you’re grappling with complex user behaviours or seeking transformative solutions that go beyond mere iterations, a comprehensive approach to UX research can be your differentiator. At Elixel, we’ve honed our skills in tackling these intricate challenges, always aiming to transform good experiences into great ones. If you’re keen on creating user journeys that not only satisfy but delight, why not have a chat with us? After all, the best way to predict the future is to invent it. Let’s create yours together.
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