ARTICLE: Adam Sonnett

How adopting a scientific approach to EdTech UX can maximize your ROI and boost revenue

As an EdTech leader, you know your product needs to be user-friendly to succeed in the market. And you also know user research is key to designing solutions that satisfy and delight. At the same time, though, you may have a hard time defining the true ROI of your UX investment. Without the ability to directly connect UX activities to measurable business outcomes, you may struggle to justify your UX spend — whether that’s to your board, your funders, or even yourself. 

You’re not alone. The truth is even UX companies sometimes struggle to pinpoint the true ROI of their efforts. We know that UX as a discipline enhances outcomes, and we can easily measure our impact in terms of improved user feedback and other engagement-related metrics. But connecting those improvements to superior business performance has historically proven more challenging. 

Until now. 

A Scientific UX Approach is Better Business for EdTech Companies   

In his New York Times-bestselling book, Think Again, organizational psychologist Adam Grant takes a deep dive into the value of critically questioning our most firmly held assumptions. In it, he argues that the best insights can often be found by “rethinking and unlearning.” 

He also argues that the same approach — the art of challenging biases and methodically testing hypotheses — can be used to drive smarter business decisions. In a chapter devoted to scientific thinking, Grant cites a 2019 study from the journal of Management Science measuring the effect of a scientific approach in entrepreneurial decision-making. 

In this randomized control study, researchers partnered with 116 Italian startups over the course of a year. Both groups participated in a series of training sessions on how to collect market feedback with the goal of assessing the viability of their ideas.

The control group was then left to make decisions according to their own instincts, which amounted to standard search heuristics. The second group, meanwhile, was trained to think like scientists. They were taught to rigorously test their hypotheses and use a more robust framework to predict an idea’s performance.  

The results were stunning. At the end of the year, the businesses that adopted a scientific approach enjoyed a 47x increase in revenue compared with the control group. 

Why is that? 

The control group learned to solicit market feedback, too. But at the end of the day, they were free to go with their gut instincts. Whatever biases and personal preferences they brought to the table almost certainly influenced their business decisions.

The treatment group, on the other hand, used a formal, data-driven structure to make more informed decisions. In practice, researchers found that the latter group was more likely to pivot or adjust course based on their findings. In other words, they were less likely to fruitlessly pursue false positives and more likely to discover the true value of false negatives. 

UX is a Scientific Approach 

UX process offers the same advantage as the framework described in the Italian study. It’s a research-based scientific approach that allows you to make data-driven decisions about your EdTech product, including your user interface, features, and functionalities. Rather than going with what you “already know” about your users — which may or may not be as accurate as you think — UX research enables you to craft your product based on what your users really need, prefer, and think. 

Unfortunately, UX hasn’t always been recognized as the scientific discipline it is. And the reality is that some UX agencies lean more heavily on the design side of things, using industry standards rather than robust research to guide them. But at Openfield, we pride ourselves on the rigor of our qualitative and quantitative research

The upshot? Investing in UX is a no-brainer. In doing so, you won’t just measurably improve your user experience. You’ll also exponentially boost your likelihood of achieving success in the market — and increasing your revenue while you’re at it. 

The Scientific Method in Action: How to Incorporate UX Research In Your EdTech Product Development Process 

It’s clear that applying a scientific UX process can improve your outcomes, help you outperform your competition, and lead to increased revenue. 

Specifically, UX research enables you to make smarter decisions because it: 

  • Uncovers users’ needs and preferences. You probably already know a lot about your users. Remember, though, that your users (and their needs) aren’t static. The good news? With ongoing UX research, you can evolve and expand your learnings along with your user base.  
  • Reduces biases. We all have conscious and subconscious biases that impact our thinking and decision making. In particular, EdTech professionals — like the rest of us — tend to be biased toward their own preferences and mental models. Without rigorous UX research, it would be all too easy to design a product custom-made for yourself rather than your users. 
  • Rigorously tests assumptions. Seasoned business leaders operate on a number of informed assumptions. After all, they are experts in their field with a deep reserve of learnings and past experiences to guide them in making decisions. But when it comes to building your EdTech business, even the most educated guesses should be checked. UX research allows you to validate or disprove those hypotheses and make decisions based on fact rather than fiction. 
  • Expands your market. It could be that you already have an up-to-date sense of your existing user base’s needs. But if you want to scale your EdTech product or expand into a new demographic or user group, you can’t assume that your existing users’ needs are transferable. Only user research can tell you for certain what your prospective users want from your product. 
  • Refines your ideas. UX research allows you to see false positives and negatives for what they are. As you uncover more data, your team can pivot intelligently and quickly alter your roadmap. Doing so ensures that you continuously act in your product’s best interest — even if it means pivoting away from the features and functionalities you initially conceived. Note that these pivots can be big or small. Either way, they add up to a smarter use of development time and fewer costly missteps. 

UX isn’t just a “nice-to-have” add-on or a cumbersome overhead expense. It’s a critical investment in your product’s success — one in which a solid return is all but guaranteed. Ready to learn more? Let’s talk.

  • Photo of Adam Sonnett
    Adam Sonnett

    As President at Openfield, Adam brings a blend of business acumen, client empathy and leadership skills to ensuring our team delivers the best process, velocity, service and quality to enable our clients’ digital products to surge ahead of the competition. Outside of work, Adam is a devoted husband, father and dog owner who is a life-long player and maniacal fan of major league and international soccer clubs. On weekends, you can find him working on various renovation projects at his historic home in Ft. Thomas, Kentucky.

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