Web Usability Blog

“We need more research now, not less“

Posted by Dr Sarah Burton Taylor on Sep 8, 2020 5:15:10 PM

“We need more research now, not less”. These are the words of the leading UX consultancy Nielsen Norman Group (NNg). As UX insight specialists we obviously agree with these sentiments. NNg comments “Lots of teams have decided to hold off on doing previously planned research projects, but I believe this is a time for more research, not less. User research is a form of risk reduction, and the greater the risk (for example, because of rapid change), the more you need that risk reduced.”

The pandemic is having two major effects on the digital world...

Increasing opportunity: The rate of digital transformation is accelerating

Many people don’t want to, or can’t, mix in the physical world so rely on digital to provide them with the goods, services and information they require. As well as seasoned online users, lots of people inexperienced in the digital world are now moving online. This could be in transacting with government, dealing with healthcare, enjoying leisure activities, and probably most obviously with an increase in eCommerce:

Read more about how Covid-19 is accelerating digital transformation.

Increasing uncertainty: What do users want?

Underpinning this opportunity is change in users’ behaviours and attitudes; this poses lots of questions such as:

  • Who are these users? Are they existing users or new users?
  • What are their needs, contexts and motivations?
  • Are there requirements specific to the pandemic situation, which are different/separate to their other needs?
  • Will these changes in behaviours persist when (if) the pandemic is brought under control? 
  • Do personas need updating?

These are big questions to answer and not ones we can guess the answers to. Instead we should be doing research with our users to ensure the direction of travel is founded on evidence, not guesswork.

Decreasing risk by doing research

User discovery and usability testing will reveal who users are, what information they want and how they want to get it. These research methods can help guide your organisation on:

  • What content your users need – are you telling them the right things about your products or services?
  • How the content should be organised – is the navigation intuitive and the website structured coherently?
  • How the content should be communicated – what tone of voice should you adopt and which formats work for users?

Case study 

Early in lockdown, a new client wanted to ensure their product pages were working effectively and supporting users in their buying journey. They sell smart garden rooms, and with more people choosing to work from home, in either the short or the long term, they have seen demand rocket. We undertook a quick and dirty round of usability testing with four target users and surfaced a number of issues that would impede conversion. Having identified these, the client made changes to the product pages in order to take advantage of the current market opportunity and stay ahead of the competition.


In a world of unknowns remove some of the uncertainty and risk by conducting research with your users and make the most of the opportunities this pandemic has to offer.

Read more: User research continues in lockdown, Cost effective ways to get user feedback in lockdown

Topics: Usability Testing, Coronavirus

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