User Experience / Is website user research necessary?

Is website user research necessary?

Andy Thorne
graphic image of astronaut and retro computer

You might know your website inside out, but do your visitors feel the same? Don’t assume you know what your potential customers need from your site, do your user research and find out. I can guarantee it will lead to higher conversion rates.


You’ve filled your website with lots of information about your products, your business, shared team pics, added testimonials and  included examples of  your work. Perfect.

But could you have you missed something out? Do your website visitors struggle to find the information they need? Or is there a part of your site they simply don’t understand?

These are not questions you can answer. The best people to answer these questions about your website are the people who use it. Your users.

So, is website user research necessary? The answer is a “hell yes”.

Your users can strip away all illusion, to provide all the information you need to improve your website and its impact.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. ― George Bernard Shaw.

Shaw wrote that long before the Internet was even imagined, but it is truer today than ever before.

Your users can also help you to avoid the peril of expensive website designs that don’t actually work! Why? Because they’re completely objective and not as familiar with your website as you are.

The power of objectivity

Relative impartiality

Listening may provide the best answers, talk with your users to understand where your website can improve.

There is no doubt that creating the best website for your business involved a considerable amount of consideration, planning, creativity and development.

You have a plan, or a website prototype that’s ticking all the right boxes. You may even have a Live website that’s been around for a while reflecting the hard work you invested in it.

When you sweat over any form of creative or marketing project, you become all too familiar with it, and loose the ability to be objective.

A lack of objectivity means that you can’t assess the merits of your website in a clear-headed and impartial way?

Talk to your users about issues with your site

The answer to this problem is to find people who are unfamiliar with your website, or new design feature, and ask them to use it. Otherwise known as user testing.

User research techniques such as user testing or user interviews – offers you fresh perspectives and uncovers problems they may have when using your website.

For example, you would be amazed how many people don’t do what you expect them to do such as find certain products or services on your site, or have no idea how to checkout.

Constant feedback creates continuous improvement

Feedback creates improvement

In order to keep your users happy it is important to upgrade your website on a regular basis.

Static and stagnant websites are seriously missing the point.

You could well be increasingly failing to meet your full digital marketing potential. Including gradually moving down the SEO scales and losing website traffic.

Websites must be upgraded, refreshed and re-populated constantly, but putting together a plan for website improvements is not always easy.

User research is your hotbed of new ideas.

The people visiting your pages and engaging with your digital profile are your strongest weapon.

You need to find out:

  • what your users like, and dislike
  • what they think works
  • what turns your users away
  • what do they want to see more of

Ultimately, you need to filter the useful from the useless and continually refine your website to ensure your user’s experience meets or even exceeds their needs.

From this filtering, comes your process of continuous improvement, your UX roadmap that underpins your website’s effectiveness and helps to improve your conversion rate.

Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection. Kim Collins

Forget quantity, discover quality – here’s how to do user research

Quality is more important than quantity. Steve Jobs Quote

Quality is more important than quantity. Don’t be impressed by how much traffic your website gets, if 60-70% of that traffic leaves within seconds of landing on your site.

Companies get lulled into thinking that lots of website traffic shows that their digital marketing is successful.

Tools such as Google Analytics can show satisfying levels of user interaction with your pages.

However, increase in traffic and page interaction can hide a ‘deep, dark secret’. All this activity could be failing to convert into sales!

Google Analytics tells you the ‘what’, user research tells you the ‘why’

Tools such as Google Analytics tells you what’s happening on your site, but it doesn’t tell you why.

For example, you could be driving 100,000 visitors per month (unique users) to your site, 60% (60,000) of those users may bounce away in seconds (bounce rate).

100,000 visitors and 60,000 are leaving within 1 second – this is the what. This is what Google Analytics tells you.

But why are 60,000 people leaving my site without even interacting?

User research has the answer, and it’s not as difficult as you may think.

The simplest way to do user research is to set a task, and ask a friend to complete the task.

For example, if you run an ecommerce that sells clothing and accessories, ask your friend to ‘Find a pair of black trainers in size 9’.

Watch or record them doing the task (user interview) and ask them to think aloud whilst they’re using your site.

This simple test will show you 2 things:

  1. how your users find products – do they use navigation menus, buttons/links in the content or the search bar?
  2. they can or can not change a product’s variation such as ‘shoe size’ – do they use a dropdown to choose a size, or try to tap in a shoe size?

Ask 4 more friends to do the same task and you’ve completed your first round of user interviews – a user research method. Nice!

From your user interviews, you’ll find reasons why your users may be failing to interact with your site they way that you intended.

These ‘reasons why’ become the issues that you need to address.

For example, if someone is trying to ‘search’ for a product or service on your site but there’s no search bar, guess what the fix is? Add a search bar to your site! Hey presto, that’s user research, testing and design in action.

This type of website user research carried out methodically and periodically is the only sure way of knowing that the right people are engaging with your site, in the right way!

For more UX research methods to help you design the right website, we have a handy user research cheat sheet.

Only your users can give you an expert appraisal of your website

Factory Pattern is often approached to develop new websites that make a big impression or to evaluate existing websites to find flaws and make improvements.

This is the sort of task we were ‘born for’ and employs our extensive UX talents and experience.

Here’s the truth though; even we use website user research to help improve our website.

The best ‘experts’ are often your own customers!