How UX Research is Helping Startups Build The Right Product
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How UX Research is Helping Startups Build The Right Product

December Labs joined the 2020 Austin Startup Week alongside Liongard, one of Texas’ fastest-growing tech startups, for a deep dive into the methodologies of UX (User Experience), UI (User Interface) and Design Thinking fundamentals. Learn why such practices are key to developing user-centric products and how to measure the ROI (Return Of Investment) of UX Research.

Austin Startup Week 2020: speakers Elisabeth Bohlmann, VP of Client Strategy, December Labs. Marcelo Cordini, Co-Founder of December Labss and Matt Miller, Director of Product Management at Liongard.

Since 2011, Austin Startup Week has been a celebration and showcase of everything entrepreneurial happening in Austin, Texas. Each year, entrepreneurs and local leaders come together to connect, collaborate and grow through the events’ educational tracks, mentor office hours, startup showcases, and networking mixers.

For its 10-year anniversary edition during October 2020, December Labs joined Liongard on the virtual stage of the Product and Design track to discuss how UX Research is Helping Startups Build The Right Product.

Speakers

Takeaways

  • Always leverage your internal team as much as possible, including your product managers and customer support teams who are the closest to customers.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The best UX Research Strategy will always depend on your objective, including where your company is at with working on your user base. 
  • To create a great user experience for your product, conducting User Experience research is just as important as designing your product’s visuals. It doesn’t matter how great your product looks or how seamless its interactions are if people are not able to perform their tasks efficiently.

Highlights

1:04 – How has the UX/UI design aspect of software development changed in the last few years? 

Marcelo: Approximately 10 years ago, developers were the ones in charge of deciding and designing the aesthetics of the product they were working on. Nowadays, we cannot fathom a software development project without UX/UI research and design, as it should happen before a single line of code is written.

3:08 – What is Liongard and what’s your role in the company?

Matt: Liongard is a software service automation tool for IT service providers that makes tracking a variety of stacks and environments easy by collecting all data in one place. One of my main roles is figuring out how to implement an UX design that fits into our processes in order to continue evolving as a company.

5:01 – Is UX/UI Research a space destined only to designers and engineers?

Elisabeth: UX/UI Research is a field in which you might find not only designers and engineers, but also psychologists, architects and other types of professionals who work together so as to analyze users’ wants and needs and transform that information into valuable projects.

6:41 – What is Design Thinking and how does it relate to UX/UI? 

Elisabeth: Design Thinking is a theory that believes in creating a product that should fulfill users’ needs. It takes into account everything that UX/UI entails but stems from the idea that as creators we have to emphasize with users by employing creative techniques and “thinking outside the box” in order to achieve a product that is user-centered.

10:12 – How can you define UX/UI design? What are the differences between UX and UI?

Elisabeth: While both user-centred, UX and UI differ in many aspects. UI is what people traditionally considered the design aspect of a product since it includes visual elements such as colours, images, diagrams, etc. UX is the backbone that allows those visual elements to be displayed in an intuitive way to the user.

10:56 – For Liongard, how was the journey into the UX/UI world?

Matt: Despite starting with a small UX research team, Liongard had some sort of advantage in comparison to other start-ups, since our founders worked for the industry that they were building their product for. As the company grew, we took UX research as a more formal and serious component in our business strategy.

13:38 – What is UX Research? 

Elisabeth: UX Research is a methodology that is very user-driven and iterated. It can include a broad array of tools and techniques, while it also varies depending on the product that you are building, the company or stage that you are in and the actual activities that you might choose to carry out.

16:18 – For Liongard, when did the need for UX Research come up?

Matt: The need for UX Research started when we began having a great amount of customers that we couldn’t directly reach and ask for feedback. Despite carrying out research, it was important not to lose track of what was the product we were building.

19:23 – Which were the challenges you faced when working with researchers?

Matt: One of the very first challenges was figuring out what was the aim of carrying out research and how we will fit it into the company’s culture. Aside from this, we then also had to provide researchers with consumable and analyzable data.

Elisabeth: The most frequent challenges are access to the actual data and users. Just because we have access to a user base doesn’t mean that we can instantly test new functionalities. Another challenge has to do with the way we conduct user testing, especially nowadays with the COVID-19 pandemic, as all tests have to be online.

25:16 – Why is UX/UI Research important for start-ups?

Elisabeth: Start-ups can benefit from research by validating potential users’ assumptions about their product, thus testing functionalities before developing. UX Research is a risk management tool, and allows start-ups to get a sense of how their product will fit into a specific market.

28:31 – Regarding Liongard, what are your first learnings on UX/UI Research so far?

Matt: The first thing we’ve learned was that as our product and company grew, we had to keep developing management processes and figure out how to incorporate UX Research into them. Carrying out research helped us shape and organise our workspace in order to deliver a better product.

Elisabeth: I always advise start-ups to start small and not try to apply UX Research to everything they eventually want to develop. Start-ups can build a solid foundation from which to create the best product they can offer by choosing the most important aspect of their product and validating their findings through UX Research.

31:12 – Do you have any advice for start-ups on what’s the best approach for hiring UX/UI Research teams?

Elisabeth: For UX there is no one-fits-all solution, it will always depend on the company’s objectives, products, user base and motivations. At December Labs we created our own methodology that takes into account all challenges not only start-ups but bigger companies -such as Liongard- face.

32:57 – From the perspective of a Product Manager, how are teams and cycles organised? 

Matt: At Liongard we are still project-driven and we encourage and empower our UI design team to talk to our developers and product managers at any given stage of the process of building a product. We found that cross-pollinating and validating information in real time helps develop better prototypes that are 100% achievable.

35:16 – Can you describe an example of the work you do at Liongard?

Matt: In terms of our user and access permission groups we clustered information and profiles into different “Environments”. By working with December Labs we were able to lay a groundwork and built cost-effective prototypes that made sure we could validate several users’ inputs, by defining roles and groups exactly the way that we wanted to.

40:17 – What’s the ROI of UX on projects like this one?

Elisabeth: A direct benefit of UX Research is that by addressing the product’s infrastructure early on we then alleviate customer’s troubles and reports to customer service. Regarding ROI, start-ups can get funding by conducting UX Research as well as reduce time and costs on daily-recurring processes.

43:12 – What are the next steps for Liongard? Can you pin-point your main takeaways from all your past experiences with UX Research?

Matt: The next steps for Liongard are guided towards lining our product with the company’s growth, by providing such a remarkable user experience that the product sells itself. I would advise start-ups not to be scared of research as a whole, it definitely is what each company makes of it and, at the end of the day, research is just talking to people and learning from them.

Austin Startup Week is organized by Jacqueline Hughes and Joshua Baer and powered by the Capital Factory team.

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