How to do bias-free UX research for your business

Author: Iva Filipovic

Regardless of your occupation, you spend approximately 9.3 hours per week gathering information. Hours add up with all the searches you do outside of work, such as finding that recipe you want to make, daily news and new workouts to try. You’ll even go so far as to search for those topics amongst different sources – just to make sure you have enough information to base your decisions on.

UX research is very similar to your personal information gathering process, just on a professional level. It is a full-time research adventure that implies not only collecting but also properly structuring, reading, visualising, and storing data that will serve as a foundation for the design strategy. Your personal goal has limited implications, like  preparing a perfect dinner for your loved ones. The goal of the DXD team is less straightforward: it is to deeply understand your users in order to make data-based decisions for your company.

Minimising mistakes with teamwork

Our research is carried out by people, and mistakes can happen. Humans occasionally miss the ball and are susceptible to cognitive bias. Luckily, there’s a way to combat these types of obstacles to make sure we deliver high quality UX research every time.

Given that Emakina is The User Agency (meaning it puts users and people first), we think it’s imperative to put truly inquisitive people in charge of research. These people, due to their experience, approach research more objectively, pragmatically, and impartially.

To avoid any possible mistakes, it’s important that research is worked on as a team. Hence, each research project undergoes regular check-ins with the team where the progress made, possible points of improvement and change of direction or criteria are discussed. This is especially important considering the team will use that research to corroborate suggestions made for the client.

“Research also needs different lenses from different profiles (and backgrounds) to enrich the understanding and insights we are building around the discovery.” – said our senior design strategist and service designer, Ivanel Pérez Bolivar, who is also the DXD Practice Lead within Emakina.

Research tools

Apart from lengthy Excel sheets filled with data and percentages, tools like SimilarWeb and SEMRush or sources like GWI and Statista come in handy. This quantitative data is objective and a great starting point.

However, machines are yet to reach the ability to understand emotions and feelings. We can, for example, obtain data on comparison between audiences and engagement of a specific company’s social media profiles, but we still need the human component to draw out the specific patterns.

The research itself implies a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. However, qualitative research sometimes exudes the help of Emakinians with backgrounds in psychology. This is why the DXD team works closely with the Insights team to deliver quality data and backed up research, every single time, and to minimise the need of third party help.

Other than our Emakina.BE DXD teammates, we get to share our research intelligence with research experts from other Emakina agencies.

Laurent Magloire, Social Intelligence Specialist from Emakina.CH, commented: “Lines between traditional, digital, and social research continue to blur as the galaxy of tools continues to expand proportionally. Applying the best-of-breed mindset when designing agile frameworks means we’re often combining various approaches to address our clients’ unique challenges. Data-source-combining is the key.”

Though the progress of AI is mind-blowing and gives us the ability to analyse data at a previously unimaginable scale, it still takes more than just a tool stack to derive real business value from social data. It relies on human intelligence, cultural understanding, and industry experience. Real insights generally happen at the intersection of these three areas.” – said Magloire.

Defining criteria

Properly defined criteria are an absolute must. The more criteria observed, the better, as a bigger volume of data makes it easier to recognise patterns and craft recommendations. We ensure the quality and quantity of criteria by considering every new finding as a possible addition to existing criteria. When the basic set of criteria is made, new sets are added throughout the research after which all the useless criteria are filtered out. 

Say you need a benchmark of your website against 15 competitor websites and you have a rough idea of what you want to find out through this research. By the time we start analysing the third competitor, we notice a new trend for the first time (e.g. inclusion of a CSR section. This section is now added to the existing set of observed criteria. By the end of the benchmark, we might realise that more than 50% of your competitors have this exact section. That’s when we continue to further explore how you could start working on your CSR practices.

Outcomes could be vastly different as well. There could be only one competitor with this section. This is when we can either omit this criterion or continue to explore it as a possible future point of diversification for your business. It’s important never to overlook the potential of new findings and trends, regardless of how often or rarely they appear on your competitors websites. If you do, you might be missing out on a global trend to come within your industry, which you can be a pioneer of.

How it affects your business

The beauty of digital user experience research lies in the actionability of its findings. This type of research is a versatile long-term investment that can be used to compare your business to that of your competitors today, to identify and prioritise improvements for tomorrow, and to measure your company’s progress by comparing past with present data.

The importance of proper research should therefore never be overlooked because it helps you to anchor your business strategy in reality and serves as a compass for your future endeavors.

Ivanel Pérez Bolivar concluded: “Bottom line, research will help you identify a problem that is worth solving for your users, a problem that will elevate your brand purpose, a problem that will be dissected in the following DXD steps. It will be translated into an opportunity and will eventually pave the way to put you in the lead ahead of your competitors. It brings value and drives engagement. Fall in love with the problem and not the solution.”

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