Design and UX

Avoid These 6 Common User Research Mistakes

8 in 10 customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience – Capgemini Demand for UX research has increased by 30% in the last 12 months. – Intechnic 51% of enterprises saw an increase of 25% in their UX research budget – Intechnic These statistics are music to the ears of UX … Continued

8 in 10 customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience – Capgemini

Demand for UX research has increased by 30% in the last 12 months. – Intechnic

51% of enterprises saw an increase of 25% in their UX research budget – Intechnic

These statistics are music to the ears of UX researchers worldwide. For too long, they have been preaching the gospel of user research. For too long, their cries have fallen on deaf ears.

UX comic
Image credits: Satu Kyröläinen

Fortunately, businesses worldwide are now realizing that research plays a vital role in creating user-centric products. In the world of software, competition is global. Even the IT juggernauts can rapidly lose market share to new players if they ignore user experience.

But user research itself isn’t immune to mistakes. If not done well, it simply becomes just another “vanity project.” But if done well, user research is like a cheat code to outpace your competitors.

In this post, we’ll look at some common user research mistakes, starting from the biggest one that occurs even before the research begins.

1.  Not Getting Buy-In From Stakeholders

For UX experts, the value of user research is so apparent that they don’t need any convincing. After all, user research reduces your risk of launching new products that no one wants. How is that not enough for the stakeholders to treat it as a priority?

But we can’t have a blanket strategy for all organizations. Each business is different with its own motivations and fears. To promote user research, you first have to understand the company culture.

Most companies don’t want to do user research because of the following three reasons:

  • User research doesn’t show visible progress in product development to their stakeholders.
  • Saying user research is valuable is akin to admitting that they don’t have all the answers. This is frowned upon in certain company cultures.
  • They have seen examples of products succeeding without investing in user research (without realizing that for each success story, there are 20 that failed due to not investing in user research).

When you understand the company culture, you can adapt your messaging to increase the likelihood of getting buy-in. For example, saying user research reduces business risk won’t energize organizations with a high tolerance for risk. In that case, put a positive spin on the message and explain how user research will help your product beat the competition. Talking to stakeholders would also reveal whether they value circumstantial and anecdotal evidence or hard facts.

Some organizations are more informed about the value and methodologies of user research. If you already have insights from previous research or projects, don’t dismiss them, as they can accelerate your entire process.

2.  Not Having Specific Goals

The word “research” may evoke negative connotations with some. We’ve all witnessed some research projects turn into rabbit holes with no clear direction. User research is no different.

If you start user research with a broad goal like “understanding users”, it won’t fly with stakeholders looking for specific answers. Also, the research is more likely to give exploratory outcomes rather than concrete action items.

John Travolta Meme
Stakeholders at the end of user research without specific goals.

To prevent this, write down – what will this research reveal that you do not know today and why is it important to find that out?

For example:

Goal – I want to find out why users stop using my application after Day 1.

Why – Day 1 accounts for the biggest drop in user engagement.

At its core, user research is simply answering questions and analyzing the findings. The more specific those questions are, the more actionable the outcomes would be.

3.  Taking User Feedback at Face Value

What we say we do is very different from what we actually do. If you ask someone how they made their breakfast, the answer would be pretty different from what you would understand by observing them cook. You won’t just lose precious details but might misinterpret things completely.

Users often articulate their frustrations during user research in the form of feature ideas — “I wish this app had a reminder feature”. Don’t take all the feedback at face value. Instead, dig deeper to uncover the actual pain point leading to that suggestion. Why do they need reminders? What is the underlying problem? Are there more elegant ways to solve it?

Users are great at highlighting fundamental problems to solve. But they aren’t trained in coming up with the most viable solution. That’s your area of expertise. Once you understand the user problem, you can put it in a design process, collaborate with stakeholders, and come up with a solution that would address the root issue better than the initial suggestion.

4.  Ignoring Stakeholders in Solutioning

Your stakeholders are always busy. The last thing they need is 40 pages of information dump. They will get disconnected if you isolate them from the research process. This is a common user research mistake in projects where the UX team only presents the findings after finishing the entire research.

Involve the stakeholders in analyzing the findings. They have a deep understanding of the business and can provide valuable insights. The more your stakeholders internalize the research, the higher are their chances of taking action on the findings.

At Modus Create, we often run workshops with our clients to develop solutions during different stages of the product development process, such as customer journey mapping, user story mapping, and prototyping. For example, when we were performing user research for a popular Edtech company, the stakeholders were involved even in the sketching of the UI.

Check out these templates on Miroverse for collaborating with stakeholders to solve problems.

Real-time collaboration tools like Miro can help involve stakeholders in solutioning.

5.  Using Only One Research Method

To a layman, user research is often synonymous with surveys and interviews. But there’s a lot more to it. Using only one method is a major red flag for any user research project.

Suppose you have an application used by thousands of users and wish to find out its most popular feature. After talking to the top 10 active users, you find out that Feature X is used most often. That’s great, but is that enough to arrive at a conclusion?

Although interviewing the ten most active users would give you high-quality data, ten is still a tiny sample size. To accurately test your hypothesis, you need to show that it works at scale. So, if you then send a survey to the rest of the users and still get a consistent response, it’s safe to say that Feature X wins the contest. If both methods aren’t telling the same story, you need to investigate further.

6.  Using Research to Confirm Your Biases

Confirmation bias often seeps in during user research. Like all psychological biases, it’s subconscious. A common user research mistake is prioritizing data points that confirm our assumptions and reject insights that challenge them.

Research is all about looking at something familiar with a new perspective. As much as we want to be proven right, we need to be extra cautious when data backs our opinions. Sometimes the nature of research can skew results in one direction by incorporating leading questions.

For balanced user research, welcome opposing viewpoints and get input on why the data might be skewed. Remember, user research calls for testing all assumptions, no matter how evident they are.

User Research Is Your Cheat Code

User research, if done right, works like magic. It lets you see your product in a completely new light and unveils opportunities to outpace your competitors. If you’d like to learn more about user research or convince your stakeholders to invest in it, talk to Modus. Let’s make your customers happier than they’ve ever been.


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