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November 7, 2022

 mins to read

4 Reasons You Might Think You Don’t Need User Research (Spoiler: But You Do)

All the startupers want to know why startups succeed, but few people want to know why startups fail. The way to success is not just following the successful, it is more about avoiding failure. 

We all know famous statistics showing that 99% of startups fail. Basically, not failing is already a success: it means that you are in that top 1%. Luckily, there are already studies that explain the reasons behind such a dramatic result.

Forbes made massive research which showed that 9 out of the top 20 reasons why startups fail are related to user needs. People were just developing products that didn’t bring value to the users, didn’t meet their expectations, or didn’t address their problems.

Image credit: CB Insights

At Eleken, we often do UI/UX design services for startups. The founders are typically in rush and want to get the product on the market or on the investors’ pitch as soon as possible. So at the initial stages of the product development cycle, when the budget is scarce, people try to cut costs. 

One of the first things that gets cut is user research. We’ve heard from our clients many different reasons why they didn’t want to do the research. We’ll share the most common — and give some tips on how to deal with those issues.

1. We have no time

user research meme

Time limits impact development decisions a lot. In the end, if we didn’t have deadlines, who knows how many products would make it to the final stage? That is to say, I totally understand people who opt to skip research to save some time. But there is one thing that they have to understand as well.

Developing a product without user research is like gambling. You have a chance to make something great and succeed, but you also have lots of chances to make something that people won’t buy because they don’t need that thing. And if you remember the statistics from the beginning of the article, you understand that the risk is big.

user research road to success

User research helps you find out what users need and what they think of your product — before it is even released. Saving is good, but going wise on saving is more important.

If you do a product without user research, you are gambling your resources, time, and money. The stake is bigger than the time spent on research.

So, how much time does the research take?

People who have never done research may imagine it as a serious science-like venture that involves people in white lab coats doing experiments in sterile rooms. Maybe some UX researchers would like it to be that way even. But what some people don’t know is that UX research process can be simplified and still bring results — with minimum time and money spent.

User interview  is one of the easiest user research methods. At the same time, it is one of the most efficient. Studies show that as by conducting 3 to 5 interviews you already get most of the insights. 

user interview timeline

Five 30-minutes interviews would take no more than three hours of your working time. Add some more time to recruit the interviewees and analyze the results, and there you go — you can schedule and conduct interviews in less than two weeks and the actual working time is much less. UX research activities don’t have to take the majority of the design team’s time.

Michele Ronsen, UX instructor, says that you can say that there is no time for research only in “really extreme situations, like one or two-day turnarounds”. According to her, recruiting a person for user research takes no more than three hours. We believe that recruiting the minimum amount of interviewees can be done in 4 to 6 hours.

People who say that they have no time for research often just lack experience. Not every product owner knows how to do UX research and how to do it fast and efficiently.

2. We have no spare budget for user research

The story with lack of time can relate to this case, as well. Just count how much these 10 to 20 hours of time cost and you’ll see that this is a tiny dash of your development budget — but as important as a dash of salt in a soup.

user research meme

There are very cheap and very expensive ways of doing UX research. And usually the cheap ways are more than enough to reach your goals. And that’s the next point of our excuses list.

3. We don’t have specific goals

When people say that, it means they have some basic understanding of how research should be done. It’s true, having a goal is crucial for efficient research. But goals don’t just appear on their own.

Especially if you are not used to doing the research and don’t have a clear vision of the value it brings, the goals won’t be clear as well.

User research checklist

Defining the goals should start with questions and challenges. Often research can help resolve roadblocks in product development. And then, there are always questions that every product manager should keep in mind regularly:

  • Is the product easy to use?
  • Does it solve the user’s problem?
  • What do users want?

And these are exactly the questions that user research answers.

4. I can’t do the research without involving stakeholders

Sadly, not everyone in the world is fond of research (and that’s why this article exists). Not all product teams are at a high level of UX maturity, and when you are the only one interested in conducting user research, you may feel that it won’t have much impact: simply because people don’t care.

On the other hand, why expect that people will get enlightened at some point? They won’t, unless they are being pushed to it. There are a number of methods that help convince your colleagues of the importance of user research. Here are some ideas:

  • Tell them stories about products that failed or succeeded because of (not) doing UX research
  • Share some statistics that prove the business value of research
  • Do little research on your own and present the results. Make sure that you boil it down to the most important insights, and don’t present lengthy documents that no one will read.

There’s no guarantee that it will magically turn your team into UX research Buddhas, but little by little it can change the situation. For more tips on how to become a user-centered company, read our article about UX maturity.

UX maturity Buddha

Real reasons

The purpose of this text is to combat the excuses, but when you dig deeper, it becomes obvious that there is the other side of the coin where user research is really unnecessary.

Apart from fake excuses, there are real reasons that can justify skipping user research. If you have that annoying colleague who is a fan of user research, just tell them one of these:

1. When you do user research just to prove your idea

Though it sounds like a case of an unprofessional person, this bias is very common even among academic researchers. Scientists say that no result is a good result, but UX professionals probably wouldn’t agree with that.

If you notice that your team approaches user research that way, it’s time to consider whether it is worth wasting time at all. Confirmation bias is one of the main UX research challenges.

2. When you can reach your goals through different types of research

When starting to do UX design for a new project, our designers often get many ideas from users’ feedback on competitors. It’s more than simple: you just go to Apple store, Playstore, or any review website and read what people are saying. 

From there, you can learn what features users lack and what makes their experience pleasant or unpleasant. It gives lots of hints on how you can shape your product to get a competitive advantage.

alternative user research methods

If you only know two or three research methods, read our article about 14 UX research methods.

3. When the results of the research don’t turn into design decisions

Here we go back to the question about stakeholders. When you take on the initiative and conduct user research on your own, but other team members just go on with what they believe is the best, the situation gets frustrating.

The only satisfaction is telling those sweet four words later when you get feedback on the product after launch: “I told you so”. Is it worth the effort? It’s all up to you.

4. When there is no professional available who can do quality user research

This reason is pretty clear. When you can’t ensure good quality, don’t jump into the research until you find an experienced professional. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a dedicated consulting company. Finding a designer who did user research in the past is enough.

If you decide to do user research without previous experience and previous knowledge, you should take it more as a self-educational experiment than a reliable basis for design decisions. Experiments are good — just don’t think that user research is a piece of cake. There are many pitfalls that you are not aware of.

So, to do or not to do?

What are your reasons, fake or true? Not sure yet? When in doubt, just do user research. And if you don’t have a UX professional with relevant experience in your team, contact us — and get to know our designers.

Masha Panchenko


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