Updated: Jan 3
Written by: Evan Goodfellow
Research Doesn’t Cost it Saves Money
Erika Hall is co-founder and Director of Strategy at Mule Design Studio. She has also written a book on design research entitled Just Enough Research. In a recent article entitled The Secret Cost of Research Erika looks at the importance of research in design projects and the hindrances that arise within companies when it comes to research. Research proves to be a time saver and in turn a money saver providing a product that goes beyond what one manager likes, to providing a product that the majority of customers will like. While companies may not want to pay for research, Ms. Hall surmises that in design if they don’t pay for the research upfront that they inevitably will pay for it in delays, misunderstandings and revisions.
The article starts out with the question, “How do I convince my client to pay for research? While many clients have budgets for design and technology, but when it comes to research, many clients laugh at the idea of coming up with a budget for obtaining the information needed to design and build things the right way from the very onset.
Research Challenges the Status Quo
Ms. Hall attributes the lack of interest in research as threatening authority. Research looks at questions regarding how things work. When you start asking questions about how things work, it threatens established authority. She states that research challenges assumptions and means “admitting you don’t have all the answers. To someone in charge, the true cost of research is the risk of losing control.” One way to gather this information is by inviting a small group of people into a market research online community to gather the information needed.
The goal to getting research approved by your client requires showing them that it is essential to the project and crucial for helping make decisions and save time. The goal of the research is not to learn new stuff, as Ms. Hall points out, but to produce good work. The research is needed to create shared knowledge which can create good work by all and help navigate a complex task.
Ms. Hall comments that a complex project requires different people from different backgrounds to collaborate on one goal. Through qualitative market research online communities we see individual views are able to come in line with the research rather than with what the individual thinks to be true based on past experiences. The article explains how every project is a series of decisions. When you are working with talented people, personal opinions can hinder the time that decisions are made, and be based on the person with the strongest personality. When research is involved, it has the power to mitigate personalities and allow for decisions to be made quicker, and more effectively.
Hall illustrates the notion that knowledge isn’t power, but power is power through a story of a woman in her UX class in grad school. She calls her Elaine in the article, and tells of Elaine’s story working with the company Vice President. The story goes that Elaine’s VP was wanting to go with a product direction that Elaine knew to be wrong. So Elaine gathered the data to back up her understanding of what direction the product should go. After spending five days compiling the research Elaine went to meet with the VP but the meeting had been cancelled. Ms. Hall’s conclusion to the incident is to “never to underestimate the perceived threat that research presents. It doesn’t matter how right you are. It doesn’t matter how good your credentials are. It matters how scared and insecure the person in charge is. Facts don’t change minds that are made up based on feelings.”
How to Change Your Clients Mind?
So how do you change your client’s mind about research? Ms. Hall states that you must realize that the client is a user, and that you are designing a project experience for them. You want to show them that research saves time and money and will allow for decisions to be made more quickly and that research will ensure the highest likelihood of success, which after all should be the goal of the project. By showing the need for research, you present it in a way that is not threatening to their ego, but as a way to provide the information needed for all members to fall in line with the overall goal of creating a great product that the customer will like, without individual assumptions getting in the way.
Ms. Hall’s last piece of advice is, “modify your pitch according to the project needs, and never ever back down. You know the client will pay for it regardless — either up front in proper research, or piecemeal and multiplied by misunderstandings and delays.” We believe that Ms. Hall is correct, and we see time and again that community software can be part of the solution. Gathering information through communities allows companies both large and small to make better, faster decisions which save time and money and maximize profitability.
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