ARTICLE: Autumn Gilbert

Why your UX research plans must align with your EdTech company’s business goals

UX research is a critical component of product development. It’s the key to unlocking your users’ needs and preferences. And it’s what enables you to build the best, most user-centric EdTech product possible. 

Of course, you already know to include key workflows and features in your user testing plan. But what about your broader business objectives — the quarterly and annual goals by which you measure your product’s progress? 

The most effective UX research plans do more than generate broad feedback on a design or concept. They are intentionally structured to actively support your business goals, whether you are looking to reduce attrition, enter a new market, or increase sales. Doing so ensures that your product meets your business’s needs alongside those of your users. 

The Danger of Building a UX Research Plan Without Business Objectives 

When you send a design or concept to your research team without first taking your business plan into consideration, you run the risk of hampering your UX research and limiting the utility of your findings. 

This can lead to two undesirable outcomes. The first is that your findings may not answer the right questions relative to your business objectives. If that happens, you’ll either need to move forward with critical gaps in your knowledge — meaning you’ll be forced to operate on assumptions rather than real data — or lose time and money to another round of testing.

The second negative outcome? You may wind up testing features that don’t ultimately fit in your product roadmap due to scope or business priorities. Not only does this waste time and money, but it also results in less meaningful results. Remember, your research findings reflect the full design as a coherent whole during the testing period. Ideally, you should prune features after a round of research based primarily on user feedback — those elements your users tell you they dislike or don’t care about — not business objectives. 

When you cut away pieces of your design based on business objectives, your research no longer has the same meaning. And in doing so, your prototypes may ultimately test a lot better than the live product. Of course, it sometimes makes sense to intentionally test “best-case scenario” designs to learn from your users how to prioritize features. In other cases, you may be forced to shift your priorities for other reasons. However, when you give your researchers an understanding of the known limitations and scope, you can leverage testing sessions to make the most informed decisions about what to keep — and what to cut. 

Bottom line? By including your business objectives along with your design goals, you can create a holistic research plan that takes into account the bigger picture context. The result? More meaningful feedback that relates back to your product roadmap and business needs. In addition, with your business objectives in hand, your researchers are able to pick up on smaller pieces of information they might otherwise have missed and save them for later to develop findings across multiple studies.

How to Incorporate Business Objectives Into Your UX Research Plan 

Use the following tips to ensure that your UX research team creates a plan with your business goals in mind. 

  • Be transparent. At the risk of sounding obvious, your UX researchers can only incorporate your business goals into their research plan if they are aware of them from the very beginning. Make it a point to be transparent with your research team about your product roadmap, Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), and other relevant decisions. In doing so, your researchers can develop the best tests to address your business goals. For example, let’s say you need to define an MVP for a new product. By giving your researchers a full understanding of the likely limitations, they can build a test that gathers user sentiment about the different limitations that could come up. They can then guide you in prioritizing the parts of the design that are most important. 
  • Work with your UX team to prioritize business goals alongside research goals. Depending on the chosen research methodology, feedback can be unevenly distributed. For example, participants may not react to every part of the design, or they may simply run out of time in a session before moving through every part of the prototype. By working with your UX researchers to prioritize your business and research goals, you ensure that the most important items will be addressed in each round of research. 
  • Read the script and testing goals. Before your research team conducts each round of testing, be sure to read the testing plan and testing goals. This is your last chance to make sure they make sense given your business goals, and that you will get the feedback you need. This is especially important if you are unable to discuss business goals with the research team prior to plan development.
  • Use research to track your progress on OKRs. EdTech companies often use research to prove the success of Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). These measures can be added to existing research plans in a way that allows your research team to collect the right information to track progress and prove success. For example, let’s say one of your objectives is to make your product fully self-service and reduce CX call volume. A corresponding key result might be to improve your onboarding experience or increase the usability of a particularly troublesome workflow. Given this information, your researchers can test against these parameters and give you a data-backed picture of your progress in those areas. 

If your research doesn’t move in lockstep with your business goals, then it isn’t really doing its job. Weave these two important elements together, though, and you’ll craft a product that is optimized for your users — and your business, too.

  • Photo of Autumn Gilbert
    Autumn Gilbert

    In her role as UX Researcher Autumn adds a high degree of compassion and observational skills to our team. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Northern Kentucky University. But it was her during experience going door-to-door interviewing villagers while attending the Ethnographic Field School in Orange Walk, Belize that she found her true passion for research and learning about the world. Outside of work, Autumn enjoys knitting and crocheting scarves and hats that she donates to those in need, reading and doing puzzle books. She is a self-professed “old lady”, but the energy she brings to our team never gets old.

Spread the word – help avoid the traps of digital product development!