As a market researcher turned technology development manager, I now spend the majority of my time addressing user requirements in relation to the FlexMR platform, designing the FlexMR software alongside our development team and advising on its use. In this role I have found myself benefitting greatly from the interplay between market research and user experience design.
User Experience (UX) Design and Market Research
A user experience is how a user feels when operating a technological system. User experience design is the process of finding out how that user feels in order to make their system encounter a positive one. Market research and user experience design are inextricably linked — one of the fundamental tenants of user experience design is the need to talk to customers about what they want, and then test out propositions with them. Sound familiar? It should.
The Market Research Participant Experience
If we start being a bit reflexive we can use the practice of user experience design as a prism to look at our own market research practice, to think about the user experience of taking part in research, i.e. the participant experience.
Let’s face it, we will all, over the years, have seen some really badly designed surveys from a user experience point of view — And it is the really confusing survey, tortuous task or long winded ‘few quick questions’ at the bus stop will stick in our minds. For instance, I remember taking a survey for a large high street retailer with an online presence.
After wading through several grids with at least one hundred radio buttons that looked like a Dalmatian with a bad case of measles, I was told in big red shouty letters that I couldn’t continue until I’d answered EVERY SUBQUESTION ON THE PAGE.
At this point, after a bit of cross-eyed squinting at the 50 sub-questions and 20 answer options to find the source of my mistake, I of course gave up — life is far too short for that.
As my own actions illustrate, the participant experience in market research is particularly important because we’re often dependent on their goodwill; one of the principals of user experience design is to make it seamless for a user to accomplish a system task.
In market research, a user’s motivation to complete a task is often pretty low — especially when compared to a task which carries a more obvious personal reward, buying item of clothing for example, applying for a new passport, or finding and booking flights. To keep participants onboard, a great user experience is essential!
User Experience (UX) Tools and Market Research Design
Let’s take a look at some of the tools that user experience designers use that we might be able to apply or adapt for use in market research, both online and off. These tools naturally lend themselves to enhancing the participant experience but there are also some valuable tips to be taken in terms of insight outputs.
1. Design (UX) Patterns
Design patterns are a standard good practice approach for designing elements of an interface (whether process or layout). People naturally look for patterns and the adherence to known user experience patterns — whether intentionally or subconsciously on the part of the software designer — means that a user can go to a new website or open a new computer application and work out how to do what they want to do without expending too much time and mental energy.
As market researchers, we can learn from this by making sure that when we’re designing research, we do so in a way that sets the user expectation and utilises familiar elements of order, layout and visual where possible, (remember, these sometimes varies by country/language!) without hindering innovation. A topic guide for example, should be written to prime participants for the upcoming discussion, to warm them up, get them to start thinking about the issue and then guide them towards arriving at and reflecting on a consensus.
2. UX Wireframes
Wireframes are used in user experience design to sketch out initial ideas for user journeys, interfaces and workflows. They form the basis for discussion with stakeholders and even end users and can be tweaked and revised before being programmed.
A wireframe approach can be very useful when designing market research initiatives as it ensures that the structure of your methodology is fully understood before participant questions and activities are particularised. This avoids overly long and elaborate surveys and discussion guides that are both repetitive and don’t cover all your research objectives.
3. User Personas
In user experience, a persona represents a segment of users who share a certain type / set of needs. Personas allow user experience designers to fulfil the needs of all users of a site and to tailor different site journeys to different users. A good persona is based on user research and the analysis of user behaviour but it is also fleshed out to provide stakeholders with someone real to identify and sympathise with when specifying site requirements.
We do use personas in market research, but they can be called case studies or pen portraits. In user experience design practice, each persona make-up is quite structured and what that persona requires in terms of their software use is well defined.
This is a good reminder for us as market researchers. We must ensure that our pen portraits / case studies not only live, but that we’re also looking at the wants and needs of the people typified by those portraits. The true insight value, the client recommendation for product, service, and customer experience design, is to be found within these needs.
These are only some of the more ‘productised’, tangible outputs of user experience design from which market researchers can benefit. What we have in common with user experience designers is a desire to find out what makes consumers tick.
Feeding this into participant experience design will create a positive experience that boosts completion rates, encourages engagement and reduces churn. Feeding it into the market research process as a whole allows us to focus our methodology and our insight objectives for richer quality insight.