Creating digital products that are truly human-centered and successful requires a thoughtful, research-driven strategic plan. At Velir, our strategy team has developed a collaborative process to balance the business objectives of our stakeholders and their users’ needs equally. Using this process, we are able to lay the groundwork for a successful website. It begins in our first phase of a redesign project with exploratory user research, stakeholder sessions, and quantitative assessments.
The Importance of Deliberate Audience Research
Well-researched audience insights are an essential input to creating a design strategy for a new website that is truly user-centered. However, just having user research is often not enough to put a website on the right track.
User research is not all the same, and if research is not aligned with business and project goals, there is a risk of losing its value to providing strategic direction.
Sometimes we have clients who partner with us for a redesign project having already completed some type of investigation into their audiences. This is especially true for member-driven organizations like Associations. We have found that inputs of membership surveys and personas are helpful in getting to know the audiences at a demographic and empathetic level; for example, their age ranges, life choices, and membership type. However, our exploratory research approach which includes synthesis of qualitative interviews and analytics goes one step further by aiming to identify user needs that are specific to their digital experiences.
Stakeholder Sessions and Leveraging Previous Work
By interviewing and observing current users, we are better able to identify the user paths unique to their website experiences. Before embarking on this activity, it is important to analyze any work that has been done in the past, as well as identify the key organizational objectives. Our approach to gaining mutual understanding and establishing a collaborative relationship with the client is to hold stakeholder workshops specifically tailored to the needs of the project and using previous information as a guide for building the conversation. These sessions allow us to overcome challenges such as gathering input from a large group of stakeholders by facilitating discussions that are inclusive and productive while also being efficient with project time.
We can understand from the beginning where there may be opportunities for synergy between what the audience wants, and what the business needs by being mindful of the business goals as we craft a protocol for our research. For example, in our stakeholder sessions after we prioritize business goals, we also take the time to identify and discuss any web barriers that currently exist which may be hindering organizational progress. Oftentimes, in looking at those barriers and thinking about how to turn them into opportunities, our strategy team will find inspiration for both qualitative and quantitative research questions.
Data-Driven Behavior Models
In approaching a redesign project, we find that strong collaboration between the qualitative user research team and the analytics team provides the synergy to identify accurate behavior models that will drive the future site strategy. It’s important for our teams to work alongside one another so that findings from both workstreams can serve to inform one-another’s work. While our qualitative team is spending time observing and speaking with users, they can share repeated insights which will in turn inspire the analytics team to dig into specific user pathways on a current site.
Conversely, the analytics team can share initial site behavior findings so that the qualitative team can use this as a guide for questioning users to understand the “why” behind the numbers. The output of this collaborative effort, along with previous inputs and collaboration with the client, enables us to confidently identify and prioritize audience needs into a set of behavior models.
A behavior model focuses on current and desired behavior across audience types. For example, one behavior model for an association might be called “Membership Information Seeker” including needs such as “how to join” that are the basis of the model. In addition to being an input for the overall site strategy, we use behavior models as a guide to help build a user-centric site map, as well as incorporate those insights into interaction design goals.
Intersecting User Needs with Business Goals
Audience research is a cornerstone to our Discover process at Velir because it inspires end-products that are truly valuable to users. By synthesizing essential audience insights with stakeholder and business priorities, we can articulate the strategic vision and goals for a successful new digital experience.
Our end goal is to create a new website that does not need to sacrifice user needs in order to serve business goals, and vice versa. A successful strategy is able to find the common threads between the organization and its audience to use as part of a strong foundation for a redesign project.
What are some challenges you face balancing business objectives and user needs? Share your thoughts below or Tweet us @Velir. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.