ARTICLE: Autumn Gilbert

Maximize the value of UX research — and build a product users love — with strategic prioritization

You already know UX research is integral to developing EdTech products users can’t live without. Whether you’re launching a new product or taking an existing one to the next level, research is a skeleton key with the power to unlock your users’ needs, preferences, pain points, and mental models. 

But with each successive round of research, your insights can quickly add up to an embarrassment of riches. You can’t possibly tackle everything at once. Not only that, but not all UX research findings are created equal. So how do you choose which of the many findings your research team uncovers to focus on first? 

The answer lies in prioritization.

To get the most bang for your buck, you need to carefully evaluate each finding and focus on the features and fixes that yield the biggest impact — for your users and your business. Here’s how. 

Why EdTech Product Teams Struggle to Properly Prioritize Research Findings

The importance of prioritizing research findings may seem like common sense. But putting this “obvious” next step into practice can be much harder than it sounds. That’s true for a couple of reasons. 

First, user-centric product teams may be inclined to place equal weight on all user feedback. If users say it matters, it must matter.


Well, not necessarily. Some user requests are bound to be more representative of your broader user base than others. And the last thing you want to do is prioritize a feature or fix that really only matters to one or two “squeaky wheels.” Applying rigorous statistics is the best way to extrapolate the true significance of your findings — and determine what really matters most to the majority of your users.    

The other reason prioritization can be a challenge has to do with the fact that different stakeholders naturally have different priorities. For example, developers might be most attuned to the level of effort required, while product owners are mindful of big-picture business objectives and the team’s ability to hit product roadmap targets. As a result, some product teams may struggle to align priorities against a set of common objectives. Not only that, but sometimes users’ needs can get lost in the shuffle of competing internal priorities. 

The goal shouldn’t be for everyone on your team to shed their discipline-specific objectives. Rather, you’ll need to find a way to bring those various objectives into harmony — without losing sight of what matters to your users. 

4 Tips to Effectively Prioritize EdTech Research Findings

One thing is clear: Properly prioritizing research findings is a nuanced undertaking. Use these tips to get started in the right direction. 

1. Align on internal objectives

As we’ve already noted, different stakeholders within your team are bound to have different concerns — concerns that will naturally impact the way they consider research findings.

In order to prioritize effectively, you’ll need to agree on a set of common objectives to weigh findings against. That doesn’t mean abandoning individual priorities. Instead, it means weaving them together in a way that allows everyone to come to a consensus about what to pursue first. 

For example, let’s say your UX team’s research indicates the need to add a larger feature. In order to meet that clear demand and stay true to internal priorities, you may decide to take a phased approach that allows you to stay on track with existing deadlines and reduce the development team’s initial investment.

Your aligned vision should flow from your big-picture business goals and be represented in your product roadmap.

2. Know your users’ priorities

All your UX research findings come from your users, so aren’t you already dialed into their needs by the time you’re prioritizing next steps? Not if you don’t stop to assess what percentage of your users is really impacted by each issue.

Remember, that one person who had a massive problem in testing may not be a lone outlier. In fact, they may represent a larger group of your users than you think. Leverage statistical analysis and (when necessary) further testing to make sure you’re clear on what the biggest pain points and opportunities are. 

3. Consider impact versus effort 

It can be extremely helpful to assess UX research findings through the lens of impact versus effort. The higher the effort required to implement each finding, the more impact is needed to justify your team’s investment of time and resources. 

Of course, low-effort, high-impact items are low-hanging fruit. In many cases, they should be first in line. However, it may make sense to allow certain low-effort items to “jump the line,” regardless of impact. For example, fixing confusing copy on your account creation page will take much less time than redesigning the entire account creation UI. The impact will be lower, but you can capture those limited results immediately (and at a much lower cost). 

4. Develop a prioritization rubric

As a team, work to develop a prioritization rubric that enables you to systematically sort through findings after each round of research.

Consider including the following facets in your rubric:  

  • Frequency. Will this issue affect users every single time they log into your product, or only every now and again? 
  • Severity. To what extent does this issue disrupt task completion? Is it a complete “blocker,” or does it simply create some additional friction? Users not being able to “like” a photo is much less concerning than users not being able to set up a new account or share assignments with instructors.  
  • Prevalence. What proportion of users are likely impacted by this issue?
  • Effort. How much work is required to address this issue? 
  • Prominence. Is the issue related to your product’s core functionality or a flagship feature? Or is the usability problem limited to a less central “nice to have” feature? 

The Right UX Research Partner Can Guide Your Product Prioritization Efforts 

Your UX research team can be your biggest asset when it comes to prioritization. At Openfield, for example, our UX research reports are specifically structured to facilitate strategic prioritization. Using a visual hierarchy, we identify the single most important finding (and related recommendation), followed by a short list of high-priority items before digging into the full set of findings. This enables stakeholders to quickly key in on the most pressing findings without getting lost in the weeds.  

In addition, after presenting our findings, we work with EdTech product teams to help them align on objectives, measure the relative severity and prevalence of findings, and so on. Throughout it all, we act as your product users’ dedicated ambassadors. We make sure to center their needs even as we work to satisfy internal stakeholders’ objectives. 

Interested in learning more about how Openfield can help you take your EdTech product to the next level? Let’s talk.

  • 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.

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