As a business owner, you heard this time and time again – you need a digital platform that resonates with your users if you want to compete in the digital landscape. The reality is, every business, regardless of its offerings, needs an online presence.
And you might think “My Instagram or Facebook business page has served my small business well so far, why do I need a website now?”. The answer is quite simple. Limiting your sales and digital presence to social media will cost you sales and your consumers’ trust in the long run.
Allow us to expand on that.
How can a website help my small business grow?
The technology boom from the past three years has pushed everyone into using digital tools more and more not only for work but even for everyday tasks as simple as ordering our groceries. And, as expected, users are becoming more comfortable with technology and implicitly, more tech-savvy.
This in turn has raised their expectations when it comes to digital experiences for all businesses, including small businesses. So, while having a social media-based business page to promote your products and services might have been enough three years ago, that is not the case anymore.
On top of that, users have become increasingly aware of online scams and cyber security risks, and tend to do more research before committing to an online purchase.
They expect you to back your social channels with an equally professional website where they validate the information they already know and find that extra piece of data they needed before they are convinced to buy into what you are selling.
Why is understanding my users’ tech skills so crucial for my business?
You don’t need us to tell you that you cannot build a successful company unless you meet your users’ needs. And that applies to every aspect of your business, from brand identity to offerings, to your digital platforms.
So, if your web or mobile app does not match your brand or it doesn’t have a satisfying user experience for your users, they will choose your competitors over you, regardless of how amazing your offerings are.
However, one common misconception within the business world, in general, is that if you know what your users want when it comes to your products and services, you also know what they expect from your website or mobile app.
And that is only partially true. In reality, when it comes to digital platforms you also have to consider what your user can and can’t do online – how comfortable are they with technology?
Since every user has a different understanding of how technology works, guessing how your users will react to and interact with your website or mobile app can be very damaging.
So, instead of playing a guessing game with your users and your business future, you should approach building your website or mobile app the same as you do for any product or service you build – as you users for feedback, listen to their opinions, and incorporate it into you user experience design.
How to do user research for my website or mobile app?
Now that you have an understanding of how important it is to do separate user searches when building your website or mobile application, it’s time to find out how to do it. And here are 5 steps you need to know.
1. Brace yourself – don’t let your user research get out of hand
The truth is, user research can be tedious, time-consuming and even costly at times. So when you have limited resources, conducting user research all the time will feel overwhelming.
Also, too much feedback can get confusing and frustrating. It’s not easy to filter it or not take it personally. So remember – it’s not about you, you can’t make everyone happy, and never compromise your values because some users are not happy.
2. Find the right method(s) for your business needs
There are so many different user research methods you can choose from, depending on how many resources you have available, what stage of development you are at, what research questions you are trying to answer etc. You can also choose more than one research option, or even mix and match.
For example, before you put together your wireframes, send out a survey asking your users closed-end questions like “do you prefer sliders or a list?” or “Do you prefer light mode or dark mode?”.
You can even go as deep as asking your users questions about your functionality, such as “Do you prefer to contact a company via a chat on the site or a contact form?”.
Once you collect a decent amount of answers, use that data to create a list of open-end questions. Then, you have two options:
a) Gather focus groups and ask them to discuss each question between them;
Focus groups are small groups of users, usually between 5 and 10, who represent your target market and are there to help you brainstorm ideas. The advantage is that they are impartial, usually unbiased, and they are detached from your development process. In other words, they have no agenda, so they tend to be more honest.
b) Schedule 1-on-1 interviews with potential users;
Interviews are a great tool for when you really want to get into it, but be careful on how you conduct them as they can feel a bit intimidating for your interviewee. Keep it as casual and as relaxed as possible. Ask simple questions such as “what did you think of”, or “do you have any good/bad experiences with…”.
In both types of user research, create an environment that is friendly, open and relaxed. Ofer refreshments, make small talk and avoid having tables or other objects between you and your users. allow them to see you.
Finally, avoid pushing your biases onto them. People want to please and it’s very easy to influence someone’s answers with something as simple as a nod or a head shake. Be as neutral as possible.
3. Prioritize your feedback
Every user has a different point of view, and their feedback will vary. Sometimes they can even provide crucial feedback for you without you even asking. Other times, they might give you feedback that seems irrelevant or unusable.
So, an important step in your user research process is to collect every piece of feedback and prioritize it. But, don’t discard your user’s feedback even when it seems random. It might come in handy later.
For example, you can use tools like the MoSCoW method to break down your feedback into must-haves, should-haves, nice-to-haves, won’t-haves. The must-haves are the most crucial ones – focus on bringing them into your design process first. Then, only if your deadlines and budget allow it, you can include some of your Should-haves in the plan.
The key here is to be strict with yourself. Don’t go down the rabbit hole thinking everything you collected from your users has to be included from the beginning. Instead, start small, build a strong prototype and go to market. Then once your user base grows, you can collect more feedback and expand from there.
4. Prepare a plan of action
So, you collected initial feedback, you prioritized it and now you are ready to prepare a strategy. But, if you don’t have experience with building digital platforms, it’s best you bring in a UX/UI designer or a technical project manager who can help you throughout your planning phase.
Together with your consultant, you should now have enough information to put together a functional brief. This document will act as a roadmap throughout your entire development process and tell designers, project managers and developers exactly what you need on each page or section of your platform.
Using the functional brief structure, you should also create a sitemap, which is a very basic graphic representation of your future platform, and how will a user go from point A to B and then C.
Last but not least, it’s time to create your first wireframe set. And this should be on paper first, then you test it with your users again and then go digital. This way, you save time and costs, test your ideas with actual users and keep only the ones that work with them.
5. Build up your ideas and concepts, test, and repeat
Finally, you have your digital set of wireframes. This is the first step towards your final designs and implicitly towards your future platform. But as far as user testing goes, this is just the beginning.
From this point on, you will have to go back and forth quite a lot – but remember what we said about that rabbit hole – don’t fall into it.
Use your feedback to perfect the features and elements you already have, don’t start adding more or removing features because one user said they didn’t like it. Commit to your designs, you can’t make everyone happy.
In other words, ask for feedback to keep yourself and your designs on the right track, and to make sure you’re providing the right user experience. Later on, when you start building your actual user interface designs, your users will help you achieve that professional and modern look you’re aiming for.
But if you start changing your designs every two days, your designer will no longer know what they are doing, your developers will be confused and frustrated and your project manager will just give up. In short, too many changes will ruin your project. So, implement features and designs, test them, perfect them and move on.
Then, why and when should you do user research?
Many business owners ask “when is the right time to ask for user feedback”, and we hope that this article explained that any time is the right time to do user research. In fact, the more you include your users and the earliest you involve them in your development process, the better.
User research is great to brainstorm ideas, validate your concept, test your user experience and your user journey, and shape your designs. But remember to put away your biases and keep it neutral. If you want an even better result, reach out to an external user researcher.
Also, remember to prioritize your feedback – not everything can go into your project from day one, and you can’t make everyone happy. Make sure you only choose the feedback that moves you forward. And finally, keep in mind that user research doesn’t stop even after you pushed your platform to the market. That is only the beginning.
Need more help?
If you are thinking about building your own platform or rebuilding your current one but are not sure where to start, reach out to us and book a free consultation with our experienced project managers. Our team has the expertise to guide you through every step of your project and make your digital dreams a reality.