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What is the Role and Value of User Research

During my decade working in digital, there has always been a desire for the business to drive the experience. Regardless if it’s a website redesign, mobile application or business software, the outset of each engagement often starts with a list of features and fixes that, when implemented, will drive increased revenue. Oh, and it needs to look “cutting edge.” It sounds straight forward: Better looking + Less problems + More features = Success


There, however, is a gap in the statement. As consultants, we are responsible for the success of our products and that means adding USER to the equation. After all, success is dependent on fulfilling the goals of each unique person that visits, downloads or is forced to used your solution. If you don’t have a pulse on your customers/users and their needs, all pre-defined requirements may fall flat.

Sounds like we just need to put everything through the lens of our users: 
Users (Better looking + Less problems + More features) = Success


In an effort to do right, we mindfully put ourselves in the users’ shoes, trying to understand the impact of our solution on their lives. Sarah Auvil recently wrote about creating software for humans, where “the intent of technology should be to increase quality of life.”

This is always our intent – noble intent. Noble intent says that we are all aiming to “make life better.” But we are focus groups of one, with our own experiences and habits guiding our insights to some extent. And, while we are often more unbiased, we are making the same leaps as our stakeholders. We are still pushing an unfounded agenda and not putting the actual user at the center.

If user satisfaction, quality of life and advocacy is truly going to drive business forward, shouldn’t we take the time and money to understand the people? Let’s remove the predefined notions and simplify: User satisfaction = Success


Onboard? Unpacking what “user satisfaction” means isn’t a small task. There isn’t one magic bullet, but a combination of ways to understand level of satisfaction. Many businesses concentrate on analytics reporting to drive this conversation – data points and conversion metrics. These are a great start but create a culture of “metrics-chasing.” Doing this, often results in maintaining the status quo or leveraging paid channels to meet unrealistic numbers.

Cardinal UX Designer Joshua Mauldin says to give your product a soul.

How does your product or experience make your users feel? Doing this is what true User Experience (UX) Research is all about. At Cardinal Solutions, our User Experience team offers a wide variety of research tactics depending on the need:

  • Focus Groups
  • User Interviews
  • User Surveys
  • Usability Testing
  • Card Sorting
  • Task Prioritization
  • A/B Testing
  • Ideation/Brainstorming Sessions

We can help create a research plan that answers the right questions. Assure that you can do this by allocating time and budget for UX research at the outset of your work. This not only prevents it from be an “optional” or “value add” service, but an integral step in getting to the root of the problems and defining the best solution for your business.


When done right, giving your users a voice, understanding why they behave a specific way and how they respond emotionally WILL deliver both short and long-term value. Immediately, you may find that improving the current experience is all users need. They don’t need new features. Or, that the budget is better spent on product infrastructure and customer service. In the long-term, you will have a benchmark for measure improved quality, not just conversions. And more importantly, you will understand how to evolve WITH your customers across all touchpoints.

This is the difference between simply building a requirements-driven UI and understanding the complete value of UX throughout the customer journey. We’ve compared the difference between UI and UX to planning to build a house. User research gives a voice to the people who are living in the experience every day.

Don Norman said in a conversation with UVA Darden’s Software Design class, "Design is NOT making something look pretty... Design is really a way of thinking. It's a way of trying to match the things people need with the things that we deliver for them." (


Whether it’s usability testing, surveys or complete voice of the customer programs, how are you working to understand your users’ reality? And how can you ingrain UX research and insights this in your own business or product lifecycle? Check out our recommendations to maintain Focus on the Foundation of User Experience throughout the process.


About The Author

UX Consultant

Adam is a seasoned UX practitioner in Cardinal’s Columbus office focusing on digital strategy, research, analytics, and UX architecture. Adam looks to apply his experience across the business and help expand Cardinal’s UX offerings.