User research: why is it important

By Sandra Kravitz

Let’s start with the following quote:

The golden rule for every business man is this: “Put yourself in your customer’s place.” – Orison Swett Marden

What do you think about selling swim suits to Eskimos? And if one’s new business idea was to sell ski jackets in Maldives? Sure, we all know the story about the two shoe sellers who went to Africa, and one of them wrote back home: “I was so mistaken: all of them are walking barefoot!” and the second one wrote: “I’ll become rich: all of them are walking barefoot!”. But think about it, do Africans need furry boots? Well, most of them don’t. Do they need high heels and fancy shoes? Maybe. But what they exactly need are shoes that would be adequate for Africa’s climate. And how will that shoe seller know what’s right and what’s wrong if not by research?

In order to make a website user-friendly, you need to know what’s friendly for its users. But first off, you must know the project you’re working on. What’s that website for? To inform, to call for an action, to help? Would it be an online store, or just shop window? Learn as much as you can about the client company: history, achievements, fails, objectives. Then learn about project: is that website just for online brand presence? Will it include a marketing campaign?  Micro-site, content source, task-based applications… all of them are expecting different approach from its users, so it’s easy to get the picture why understanding the project is first step one must make in order to understand the user.

When research about the project is done, it’s time to get to know who the users of that project are. Two most important questions that need to be answered are:

  1. Who is the user of particular website?
  2. What are user’s objectives from particular website?

Understanding who are the users helps you to understand what do they want. The job of User Research is to understand user and his/hers needs, desires, expectations, motivation, behavior etc., driven by willingness to make the website that meets their goals and objectives.

I believe you’ve got the point by now why is user research so important, so next time we’ll be working on how to do it proper. Be sure not to miss it and grab our RSS feed.

If you have any additional questions about user research, I encourage you to write a comment.