Why you should be the one conducting research on your own users

A modern wooden conducting baton

A modern wooden conducting baton (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout this blog so far, we’ve stayed largely in step with general practice with the user experience research industry. This is post is where we step out of line.

Traditionally, research on users has been heavily conducted by third-party organizations and agencies. These user experience and user research agencies specialize in conducting user research for makers of applications, large-scale websites, and the like. Usually these agencies handle recruitment, conducting, and analysis; and for a few thousand dollars you end up with a PowerPoint or a PDF, and in exceptional cases, a checklist.

That’s not to say there is no value in research experts. It does take some time to learn how to conduct user research and to get good at it. These experts have a history of conducting studies and making sense of their results; their wisdom is highly useful.

For most app and website makers, however, its better to conduct your own research, and use the research experts as consultants for your own internal research methods. There’s several reasons for this:

1. When you conduct and analyze your own research, you bring in your content expertise. You know your own support tickets, you know who your target audience is, and you know your industry better than a third-party ever would. It won’t take long before you’re able to gain more insight from research you’ve conducted than an expert would be able to provide.

2. You’ll be better equipped to see patterns both in the research and in your daily work. You’re the one on the ground level, you’re much more familiar and the research can help you to see the bigger picture of your project.

3. The changes the research suggests are much more likely to take place when you conduct your own research. One of the most challenging aspects of user research is getting changes through the pipeline; internal research is more actionable.

4. The cost and effort of conducting research is dramatically lower when you do it internally. This means you’ll end up conducting more research, and more often. Effective user research is as much habit as effort.

5. You can adapt the research methods to your product or service in a more agile fashion. Along with that, you’ll be able to integrate the research data with your own internal data, such as user accounts and site performance data.

6. Most importantly, internal user research builds empathy within your organization. Organizations that focus on their users perform better than money-oriented or ego-oriented organizations.

Use research experts to help you setup and improve your own internal research, and as an occasional sanity check; but, conducting your own research is truly optimal and necessary.

Thoughts, opinions? Let us know!