UX is a mindset that connects strategy and design through the understanding of what is valuable and meaningful both for the users and the organisations. And in such a scenario, research is the link that allows organisation strategies to become experiences.
In an experience economy the value of a product or a service is not anymore limited to a price tag, but it is determined by the quality of the experiences delivered. This implies that organisations need to shift their focus from the product to embrace the intangible experiential elements and shape those elements to support the wider strategy through an effective and meaningful engagement with the users.
Strategy, to become actionable, needs insights into users’ lives and into the context. Research reveals the gaps and opportunities where design can add value and insights characterise the entire UX process. An initial explorative research exposes and explains the context: what are users experiencing today? What is supporting the customers’ engagement? What is hindering their experience? What bits of the user journeys are broken? And, more importantly, research connects facts with the whys. The raise of ethnographic and qualitative approaches proves organisations’ increasing awareness of the importance of knowing who are the users and what are the variables influencing and affecting engagement.
When gaps and opportunities are clear, generative research supports the UX process by coming up with sound and effective ideas and concepts.
Generative research benefits from participative design based approaches and from the interaction between users and stakeholders, where the presence of designers simplifies the process of co-creating meaningful aspects, leading the way to concepts that produce value both for the organisation and the user.
In UX today it’s not all about needs – UX always addresses a demand, but UX goes further and adds a strategic element to the process. UX aims to deliver experiences that are both valuable and meaningful, making the users’ interaction with the product or service a distinctive, effective, and memorable one.
Experiences do not necessarily have to be always about efficiency, they have to be fit for purpose. And the understanding of the purpose is an important and distinctive outcome of the UX process. The goal is always to identify the key experiential qualities that can drive engagement and delight.
UX is an insight and strategy lead process where touch points, user interfaces, blueprints, and visual elements are designed and defined in an iterative process that involves both the users, seen as the experts of their own experience, and the UX professionals, who know how to translate users’ feedback into actionable solutions.
A UX process requires different skills and professionals in all stages to shape and deliver experiences. And it needs users’ feedback. This collaboration between users and UX professionals is key during the evaluative phase: an ongoing testing stage where users, designers, researchers, and stakeholders engage in iterative assessment to measure and refine the experience.
And in all this, the UX researcher acts as a key player that shapes the experience design through a user centred approach that brings together the organisations and the users. The engagement and constant iteration between all actors is key.
UX represents a paradigm shift that requires organisations to understand people’s mind sets, their expectations, their attitudes, and behaviours to be able to identify the most effective way to engage with them and deliver value through experiences. UX is therefore not a mere design discipline – as I have said UX is not about design – but a strategic approach that informs the design through a constant understanding of the elements that deliver value both to the users and the organisation to create experiences that engage users and establish meaningful relationships.