GuidesUser experience (UX)Maximizing UX research impact on limited time and budget

Maximizing UX research impact on limited time and budget

Last updated

25 June 2023

Author

Chloe Garnham

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

User experience (UX) is critical for all products and services. Deep research into user needs, challenges, and behavior is necessary to deliver on the promise of UX. 

But how does a team conduct UX research with a limited budget and timeline? The truth is, UX research doesn’t have to be expensive – nor time-consuming.  

Proper planning, strategies, and prioritization make it possible to conduct UX research quickly and inexpensively.

We’re covering the most common challenges and how you can overcome them. Here’s how to maximize UX research with limited resources. 

The critical component of UX research

UX research is at the core of all effective design. Research tells product teams how people feel when interacting with products, where the pain points are, and how effective products are overall. 

UX research looks at how users think and behave, what motivates them, and what they prefer – all to create more satisfying products. 

The research process ultimately ensures: 

  • Data backs any decisions

  • Proof points for investment

  • The UX team bakes the user’s needs into the design from the beginning

Challenges of conducting UX research with limited time and budget

Feel like you’re the only one with a limited timeline and strict budget? Think again. 

A survey found that 50% of UX researchers studied had a budget of $1000 or less per month, and many researchers aren’t even sure what their budget is. 

While short timelines and smaller budgets are common, they can pose some challenges. 

Challenges with shorter timelines

Relying on short studies

When timings are tight, longer-form or complex studies are typically out of the question. This means relying on shorter studies like surveys or interviews rather than diary studies or usability testing, which may offer greater insights.

Less planning

Developing a solid project plan can take a significant amount of time. It’s easy to rush planning and skip critical steps when you have time pressures.

This often leads to vague goals, little time for participant recruitment, poorer research methods, and a lack of essential post-analysis.

Choosing one method

Performing multiple forms of research helps researchers discover more about their users. 

A combination of attitudinal and behavioral research types allows teams to deeply understand their research participants from different points of view. 

With a short timeline, you may need to choose just one or two methods, providing less data.

Using secondary data

A team may also rely on data the company hasn’t directly collected. Secondary data can come from a government body or research organization. Indirect data can be useful, but it may not speak specifically to your project. 

Challenges with limited budgets 

Relying on incomplete data

When a budget is limited, it can be harder to recruit the ideal number of participants for a study. This means relying on data from a limited sample size which may not provide sufficient information, diverse views, or relevant insights.

Choosing research methods

Ideally, you want to choose research methods that provide the most information about your target audience. This will ensure you can deliver the best possible products for them. 

Some research methods may be out of reach on a tight budget, limiting the insights your team can gain. For example, in-person usability testing provides invaluable data but tends to be expensive.

Less access to tools

Some online tools can prove very helpful for UX research. A lower budget can limit your access if these tools are expensive or challenging to onboard.

Fewer resources

An experienced team is a critical aspect of conducting UX research. A limited budget can mean less opportunity to hire the right people or teams. This may have a ripple effect across the design and development process. 

Planning UX research with time and budget constraints

So, how can you overcome these challenges? With a little planning, time and budget constraints don’t have to cause huge hurdles. 

Much research can be done with little or no budget, assuming proper planning occurs. That’s why all successful projects begin with clear objectives. 

Setting clear objectives 

Only begin a UX research project with clearly defined objectives and goals. Starting with the wrong questions typically means unhelpful or irrelevant answers.

To set effective UX goals, it’s useful to:

Consider the strategy

All goals should align with the overall business strategy to move the business forward and keep projects cohesive.

Define measurable outcomes

Vague goal setting can be highly problematic. All goals should have clearly defined, measurable outcomes. 

It can be helpful to make SMART goals. Creating specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals means knowing when you’ve hit your target.

Consider the user

UX focuses on the user, so they should be at the center of everything you do. Continually consider their needs, pain points, motivations, and expectations as you set goals and perform research.

Combine research methods

Ideally, you want to use attitudinal and behavioral research methods to discover as much information about users as possible. 

Prioritizing research goals and questions

Once you’ve set goals, prioritize the most critical. Choosing the most important issues puts you in a better position to maximize your budget and timing. 

To prioritize goals, it can be helpful to:

Choose core objectives

While you may want to research many project aspects, focusing on core objectives is best. These will drive decision-making and lead to better, more usable products.

Consider the impact

Determine how answering certain questions will impact the wider product. 

Ideally, it’s best to choose those that will have a greater impact on the whole. It’s often best to leave smaller iterations to later releases when your budget allows. 

It’s best to prioritize must-have features that impact user signups and other critical functions over nice-to-have features that are primarily aesthetic.

Identifying key research methods and tools

Once you’ve clearly identified and prioritized your goals, you need to choose the best research methods and tools for your project. 

We recommend:

Focusing on feasibility 

Considering what your team can achieve within the constraints is necessary to maximize the project’s limitations. Start by asking, “What can we achieve within this budget and time limit?”

Considering study length

Longer-term studies, like diary studies, can be problematic on a tight timeline. In-person usability testing may also be out of reach, as it requires extensive planning.

Choosing inexpensive methods

There are many effective ways to conduct research without high costs. Choosing remote sessions, leaning into free online tools, and reducing the number of participants can all help. 

Top cost-effective research methods and tools  

Research doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take months to complete. Many research methods are fast to create, simple to deploy, and offer deep insights into user behavior and motivations. 

These are some of the most cost-effective methods:

Surveys 

Surveys are a very useful research method for gathering large amounts of information. 

The right survey can help you: 

  • Get into your customers’ heads

  • Gain spontaneous responses

  • Learn about both customer loyalty and satisfaction

Surveys can also be fast and inexpensive (even free) to create and send. 

Online tools such as SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms can simplify the process. They offer ready-made templates and data analysis capabilities. 

So, regardless of your team’s experience, gaining survey responses is relatively simple. 

Remote usability testing 

Regardless of budget size, don’t overlook usability testing. It’s a critical way of ensuring your products are fit for purpose, better than alternatives, and satisfying to use. 

Still, in-person usability testing can involve lengthy planning and high costs. 

However, it’s possible to perform cheaper usability tests. You can conduct these remotely with a small group of users––ideally with at least three to five participants.

User testing platforms 

Helpful user testing platforms like UserTesting or TryMyUI allow real people to test your website, app, or prototypes.

While these are paid platforms, they can save the costs of finding research participants, planning tests, meeting in person, and collecting the results.

Using a platform can also hasten the process, ensuring you can test your products as needed, not just when you have participants available. 

Customer feedback 

Why perform new research when you may already have a large source of valuable data? Companies often overlook customer feedback, yet it’s one of the most important aspects of running a successful business. 

Listening to customer feedback helps you understand: 

  • Whether you’re delivering on promises

  • If customers are satisfied with your product

  • Where you could better your offering

Lean into customer feedback data by reviewing all customer touchpoints, including: 

  • Social media comments

  • Chat messages 

  • Call center notes 

  • Online reviews 

  • Customer requests 

If you have a customer service team, sitting in with them and listening to calls and concerns can be extremely informative and cheap. 

In addition, asking customer service representatives what data and trends they know about can give you free insights instantly.

It’s best to use an advanced tool that stores and analyzes customer data to use this information accurately. Dovetail allows teams to store all their customer data in one place to tag themes, segment data, uncover patterns, and share those insights for fast action across the business.

Use secondary data 

Collecting and analyzing data from primary sources is typically the most reliable way to gain insights. Still, secondary data––such as from government organizations, research firms, and open data platforms––can play a critical role. 

You can use secondary data alongside your research to build a story about your customers. This can highlight current trends, provide demographic information, and prove a market exists for your product

The best part? This information is typically free for anyone to use. Some secondary data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau, World Bank Data, and the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Observational studies

Directly speaking to participants can take significant planning, time, and effort. An easier alternative is observational studies. 

An observational study involves watching people in natural settings, such as in a public park, busy train station, or cafe. You can discover information about human behavior to develop a better picture of your customers. 

You can perform observational studies cheaply, ad-hoc, and with one or more researchers who need just a phone or notebook to take notes. 

Interview current customers 

Another way to quickly find participants for valuable insights is to speak to your current customers. Sending a callout to a group of customers with a small incentive––such as a discount on their service or free coffee––can be a fast way to gain insights. 

Streamlining data collection and analysis 

Simplifying your data collection and analysis methods is a helpful way to ensure time- and budget-efficient research. 

Using online tools, having a clear plan, and leaning into automation can all prove fruitful. 

Have a clear plan

A well-considered plan ensures that: 

  • You collect data cohesively

  • Research relates to the overall project goals

  • You establish parameters for success at the outset

Use data collection tools

Using online platforms for data collection can be significantly more efficient. Manual processes are sluggish and leave room for error. Online tools with collection and analysis abilities ensure quick data collection and actionable insights.

Use automation

The rise of AI is helping people perform tasks more quickly and accurately across the board. Lean into AI tools where possible to build efficiency into the data and analysis processes. 

Use one source of truth

Once you gain data from multiple sources, having a single source of truth is essential. 

Using a platform like Dovetail for data collection, storage, and analysis will boost efficiency and collaboration. 

Best practices for efficient participant recruitment

Attracting and managing research participants can be one of the most challenging and time-consuming aspects of the process. 

It's important to streamline participant recruitment where possible to maximize the impact of your research. When participants are part of your UX research, consider how you can boost participation, communicate effectively, and maximize time. 

Some best practices include: 

Clear and effective communication

Rather than assuming your participants understand your project or how their participation will help, spell out the importance of their role.

Letting your participants know that they’re the “first to try something” or are “part of an exciting new project” will likely be much more successful than a generic research message. 

Communicating privacy information

These days, people are increasingly concerned about privacy and online safety. Assuring potential participants that you’ll keep their data secure can boost interest.

Offering incentives

Whether it’s a discount, a small amount of cash, or a gift card, most people appreciate an incentive. Offering participants something for their time can boost the chances of more signups. 

Be responsive

If participants have questions, respond quickly to reduce any confusion or discontent.

Maximize participants' time

When researching, it’s critical to plan ahead, keep on topic, and ask the right questions. This ensures you get the most data efficiently. 

It might be useful to add a few questions to get all the necessary information, making the most of everyone’s time working on the project. 

However, you don’t want to overwhelm participants, as they may lose interest. 

Tips for effective communication and collaboration with team members

All successful projects have effective communication and collaboration at their core. Enhancing collaboration between team members can produce more efficient research results. 

This can happen through:

Clear expectations

All teams and stakeholders should be clear on the overall business strategy and the research project's objectives. 

This ensures all parties are moving toward a common goal, maximizing efficiency, and keeping budgets and timelines in check.

Collaborative channels

A collaborative channel like Slack or Notion can keep communication fluid across the project. This will ensure no one team acts in a silo. 

Meeting regularly

In the lead-up to the project and during the research process, encourage open communication with regular team meetings. Meetings will keep all team members up-to-date and efficient in their roles.  

Effectively presenting research results

Research results are meaningless if you can’t turn them into actionable insights to improve products. Communicating the research results clearly and effectively across stakeholders is essential. Always consider different learning styles and ways of communicating. 

You should deeply analyze the research findings before sharing them across the organization. The findings should emphasize core learnings, key actions, and priorities. 

Using graphs, color, and slideshows can ensure all team members quickly digest and understand the insights. You should also offer the chance to ask questions and provide feedback. 

Evaluating the impact and ROI of UX research

It’s also necessary after performing UX research to decipher how effective the process was and whether it impacted ROI. 

This information informs the team of what went well and what needs improvement. If the research performs well, it can boost the chances of further UX research investment. 

A UX researcher will typically conduct an analysis by assessing core metrics for success before communicating those with the team. 

It can be helpful to ask these wider questions to evaluate the impact:  

  • Did we set measurable outcomes?

  • Did we meet those outcomes? 

  • What was the significance of the improvements? 

  • Where did we perform lower than expected?

  • What metrics are valuable proof points? 

  • Have we acted correctly upon the data? 

  • What could we do in the future for a larger impact? 

Maximizing the impact of UX research 

Conducting UX research is essential for driving user-centricity across product offerings. Regardless of a project’s budget and timeline, it’s crucial to maximize the impact of any research you perform. 

The truth is, UX research doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Effective planning and prioritization make it possible to perform UX research quickly and inexpensively. 

Setting clear priorities, communicating effectively across stakeholders, conducting shorter forms of research, and using the right tools, can ensure fast and budget-friendly research.

FAQs

What are some cost-effective ways to conduct UX research?

UX research doesn’t have to be expensive: Many research methods are relatively inexpensive. These include conducting surveys, gaining customer feedback, conducting observational studies, and using secondary data.  

How can I maximize the impact of my UX research with limited time?

UX research doesn’t necessarily have to be time-consuming. Using advanced online tools for data collection, storage, and analysis can quicken the process. 

Shorter-form studies are also favorable over longer studies such as diary studies. 

What are the best tools for conducting UX research on a budget?

Some of the most useful tools for UX research include survey platforms, data collection, storage software, and usability testing sites.

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