Enterprise UX Research: 5 Key Steps For Ensuring Top-Level Designs

Brian Bojan Dordevic
About The Author

Brian Decoded

President at Alpha Efficiency

Join me at the forefront of web design and digital marketing innovation. I am obsessed with web design, business philosophy and marketing performance.
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Enterprise software design is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. You’ve got a serious job to do: create a tool that satisfies every user – from tech support to top-level execs. However, it often feels like you’re trying to fit together pieces that don’t seem to match.

What if the final product doesn’t meet sky-high standards? Every misstep can be expensive when working on enterprise projects.

So, how do you make sure you get it right? Well, that’s where a good plan comes into play. And after years of figuring things out the hard way with my web design agency in Chicago, I’ve got some tips that can help. This article is a distillation of those hard-earned insights packaged up to guide you through the enterprise UX research maze.

You’ll learn a five-step enterprise UX research process to ensure your design hits the mark and makes users happy.

Table of Contents:
Enterprise UX research

What Is Enterprise UX Design?

Imagine walking into a workspace custom-built for efficiency, where each tool and system is laid out just where you need it, enabling you to work smarter and faster. That’s the essence of enterprise user experience design. It’s about crafting the behind-the-scenes digital spaces employees use daily – the software that powers a company from the inside.

Enterprise UX design isn’t about the flashy apps we all download for personal use; it’s more like the control panel for a spaceship. It’s got to be functional, reliable, and, above all, intuitive. Employees should be able to jump in and navigate these systems without a hitch, whether they’re filing reports or analyzing data.

But here’s the catch: while these applications are meant to simplify work, creating them is anything but simple. You’re not just aiming for something that looks good; you need a design that feels like a natural extension of the workplace. It’s a tall order, but when done right, enterprise UX design can transform a day’s work from frustrating to fruitful.

What Makes UX Research For Enterprise Software Design Unique?

Unlike with B2C apps, where end-users are usually not subject matter experts, in enterprise UX design, you are designing apps for experienced users. The people using your software will often be seasoned professionals who know their industry inside out. They’re not just casual users; they’re power users who will push your design to its limits day after day.

While there are many similarities in user research methods, enterprise UX design is a unique field for several reasons. 

Enterprise UX design demands a deeper understanding of the user’s world. This means you can’t just ask what they want; you need to understand why they want it, how they’ll use it, and the context in which they’re operating. These users are looking for tools that streamline their specific tasks, reduce friction in their daily workflow, and, ultimately, help them do their jobs better and faster.

To get this right, you have to embed yourself in the organization’s culture. Every company has its own way of doing things – its own language, its own shorthand, its own rituals. Your research needs to decode all of this. You’ll need to grasp not just the technical requirements of their work but also the subtle interplay of team dynamics, corporate hierarchies, and even office politics.

This is why enterprise UX research is unique: It’s not just about what users do but also about the environment in which they do it. In enterprise settings, workflows can be complex, integrations with other systems are often critical, and the cost of getting something wrong can be astronomically high – both in terms of time and money.

However, before moving on, it’s essential to understand the difference between a UX researcher vs UX designer. As a user experience researcher, your main task is to gather actionable insights that guide design direction.

Benefits of Enterprise UX Research

Benefits Of Conducting Enterprise UX Research

Whether you’re designing enterprise tools and web apps or working on enterprise WordPress development – conducting UX research is necessary. The benefits go far beyond just a well-designed user interface for your enterprise products:

  • Enhanced Productivity: At its core, enterprise UX research aims to create tools people can use efficiently. When you understand the daily routines of the users, you can design interfaces that streamline tasks, cut down on unnecessary steps, and help users accomplish more in less time. This efficiency boost is good for morale, but it’s also good for the bottom line.
  • Reduced Training and Support Costs: If your software is intuitive, you spend less on the training process. Additionally, when users find the interface easy to navigate, they’re less likely to make costly mistakes or need frequent help from support teams. These savings can be significant, especially when scaled across a large enterprise.
  • Scalability and Flexibility: Enterprise UX research can future-proof your design. By understanding not just current needs but also anticipating potential future developments, you can create software that’s ready to adapt and grow with the company.
  • Competitive Edge: In today’s market, having a superior user experience is a competitive advantage. Enterprises that offer their employees the best tools attract and retain top talent and are often more agile and innovative in their operations.
  • A smoother design process: This research gives you insight into the user’s daily routine, their challenges, and what they truly need from your software. With this knowledge, you can anticipate and avoid roadblocks that would otherwise pop up unexpectedly during the design phase. Involving end-users early on and validating your concepts means you’re more likely to get it right the first time. This leads to less back-and-forth and fewer major overhauls. 

5 Key Steps To A Successful Enterprise UX Research

I’ve laid out a step-by-step guide, each step following logically after the last, to lead you confidently through the enterprise UX research process. These are crafted to help you understand the intricate needs of diverse users, ensure your design scales effectively, and align your product with the existing workflow an enterprise company uses:

Defining research goals

1. Define Research Goals That Align With Your Business Objectives

There was a time, early in my career when I dove headfirst into a project with all the enthusiasm of a novice. I thought I had all the answers; after all, I knew how to make things look good and work well. But I quickly hit roadblocks that were both humbling and illuminating. The software was sleek, yes, but it wasn’t what the business needed. It was a hard lesson in the importance of aligning user experience research goals with business objectives.

Without clear goals rooted in your business’s needs, enterprise UX research can become a wandering quest for insights that, while interesting, don’t serve your project’s true purpose. You might find out how users feel about a particular color scheme or workflow, but if you don’t understand how these elements feed into larger business outcomes, you’re essentially collecting puzzle pieces for the wrong puzzle.

Start every project with a detailed sit-down, looking not just at the UX requirements but at the business’s heart. What is the vision? What are we trying to achieve on a fundamental level? Is it efficiency, growth, user retention, or something else?

Every element of your UX research should be traced back to your business goals. If your enterprise is set on reducing the time it takes to complete a task, then your research should focus on where current delays occur and why. If the objective is to improve data input quality, your goal might be understanding where errors are introduced into the system and how the interface might prevent them.

As a UX researcher, you must look beyond the surface. You need to create a research plan that maps out each question you aim to answer, ensuring every minor change helps achieve business goals more easily.

2. Plan Your Design For Users Who Are NOT Buyers

The decision-makers who give your software the green light are rarely the ones who’ll use it every day.

I’ve sat in countless meetings where leaders were fixated on the number of features, the level of control, and the sheer power of configurability. And while these are significant, they’re often not what end-users prioritize. For those on the ground, the ones engaged with the software daily, it’s about an intuitive user interface and tools that help rather than hinder their workflow.

This dichotomy is where many designs falter. In the pursuit of impressing higher-ups, the actual enterprise user experience can become an afterthought. But here’s where the pivot is crucial: by honing in on the pain points and desires of end users – the employees – and letting those UX insights guide your product design, you’re playing the long game.

Yes, the software needs to sell, and for that, it must impress company leaders. But if the software doesn’t deliver on the day-to-day user experience for enterprise users, it will falter. Frustrations mount, productivity dips and the initial sale becomes a pyrrhic victory.

The enterprise users, the ones who interact with your product design daily, are your most valuable source of UX insights. They’re the ones who can tell you if a feature, however impressively presented in a boardroom, actually complicates their task. They’re the ones who can help you understand if the configurable options are empowering or just adding layers of unnecessary complexity.

Research Methods

3. Choose Enterprise UX Research Methods – Qualitative and Quantitative

The methods you pick can either illuminate the path forward or leave you muddling through the fog. They are your means to answer questions pivotal to the user experience – questions about user needs, preferences, and behaviors.

Now, let’s get a grip on the two broad categories of research methods: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative methods are about the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ They help you understand the reasoning behind user behaviors and preferences, giving context to the numbers. These methods provide rich, detailed insights, helping you explore user motivations and experiences in depth.

Quantitative methods, on the other hand, deal with the ‘what’ and ‘how many.’ They provide data that can be measured and analyzed statistically, offering a bird’s-eye view of user behavior and patterns at scale.

Both types of methods serve different but complementary purposes in enterprise UX research. Here’s a quick tour of some commonly used methods from each category:

User Interviews (Qualitative):

One-on-one conversations allow you to dive deep into individual user experiences. You can uncover pain points, discover hidden needs, and get candid feedback on your product design.

Usability Testing (Qualitative and Quantitative):

This method involves observing users as they interact with your software. It’s about seeing where they stumble and succeed, gathering qualitative insights and quantitative data on task success rates, error rates, and time to completion.

Surveys (Quantitative):

Using surveys, you can reach a large number of users quickly, gathering data on specific questions you have about their experiences. For more depth, consider including user experience survey questions that probe beyond surface-level reactions.

Focus Groups (Qualitative):

While similar to interviews, focus groups allow for a dynamic discussion among users, giving you a sense of how opinions and ideas form and evolve in a group setting.

Analytics (Quantitative):

Usage data from analytics can reveal what features are popular, which ones are ignored, and how users flow through your enterprise application.

A/B Testing (Quantitative):

This method lets you compare different versions of a feature or interface to see which one performs better in terms of user engagement and satisfaction.

Research Sessions (Qualitative and Quantitative):

These dedicated sessions can combine multiple methods, such as interviews and usability tests, to give you a rounded view of user testing outcomes and answer critical user needs questions.

How I choose enterprise UX research methods to get desired insights

Finding the proper method doesn’t need to be complicated. I start by pinpointing the questions I need to answer. Do I want to know what users are doing, or why they are doing it? This helps me decide between quantitative and qualitative.

If I need stories, experiences, and motivations, I lean towards qualitative methods like interviews and focus groups. When I need numbers to back up my findings or identify usage patterns, I turn to quantitative tools like surveys and analytics.

In many cases, a blend of both is the ticket. For example, if usability testing reveals that a feature is underused, analytics can quantify the extent of the issue, and follow-up interviews can provide the reasons behind it.

The key is to remain flexible and let your research goals guide you to the methods that will offer the most valuable insights into user requirements for a website design. By pairing the right approaches with clear objectives, you’ll extract the precise data that will inform a user-centered design, leading to a product that truly resonates with enterprise users.

4. Find Proper UX Research Tools To Gain Insights Faster

The tools you employ can be the difference between a slow crawl toward insights and a swift stride to understanding.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the types of tools you might consider, with examples to illustrate:

  • Survey and Feedback Tools: For gathering direct input from users through surveys or feedback forms.
    • Examples: UserVoice, SurveyMonkey, Google Forms
  • Usability Testing Platforms: These tools allow you to conduct remote or in-person usability tests, observing how users interact with your product.
    • Examples: UserTesting, UsabilityHub
  • Heatmaps and Click Tracking: To visually understand where users are clicking and how they navigate through your site, heatmaps are invaluable.
    • Examples: Hotjar
  • Analytics Tools: To track and analyze user behavior on a large scale, analytics tools can provide a wealth of quantitative data.
    • Examples: Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, Mixpanel
  • Session Recording Software: For a detailed view of user interactions, session recording software can capture the user’s screen as they navigate your interface.
    • Examples: Userbrain
  • A/B Testing Tools: To compare different versions of a page or feature to see which one performs better.
    • Examples: Optimizely, Unbounce

I’ve compiled a list of the best UX research tools my team has used over the past decade when working on enterprise projects. Whether it’s the immediate visual feedback from heatmaps or the rich, qualitative data from session recordings, each tool has a role to play in painting a comprehensive picture of the user experience.

Record Research Sessions

5. Record Your Research Sessions For Easier Analysis

The first time Alpha Efficiency landed a major enterprise client, I made a critical mistake during the UX research process.

We had just wrapped up an intense series of research sessions, and I was brimming with confidence in what I thought we had discovered. But when the time came to share these insights with the team, I realized my notes were more of a sketch than the detailed painting I remembered from the sessions.

Notes can’t capture the tone, body language, or momentary expressions of frustration and delight. Vital nuances had slipped away, and the color I could bring to our discussions was, frustratingly, monochrome.

From that point on, I made it a rule to record every session. Now, with recordings in hand, our team could dissect the sessions together, replaying key moments and uncovering insights I alone might have missed.

With recorded sessions, a collaborative analysis becomes much more manageable. Still, here are some tips to keep in mind when analyzing results with your team:

Look for Patterns:

As you review recordings, take note of recurring behaviors or comments. Patterns can indicate common pain points or features that are particularly appreciated or needed.

Consider the Context:

Remember that each user’s feedback is influenced by their unique context. Look for insights that are consistent across different contexts to find broader trends.

Use Timestamps:

While reviewing recordings, mark timestamps for key moments. This makes it easier to return to significant parts of the session later and helps when you need to reference specific points in discussions or presentations.

Create Highlight Reels:

Compile short clips showcasing the most critical moments from your research sessions. These can be particularly effective for communicating findings to stakeholders who need to digest a lot of information quickly.

Balance Qualitative with Quantitative:

While the qualitative data from your recordings is invaluable, complement it with quantitative data when possible. This dual approach will give a more rounded view of the user experience.

Iterate and Refine:

UX design is an iterative process. Use the feedback and data to refine and tweak your design. Sometimes, even minor changes can significantly improve the user experience.

It’s Time To Enhance Your Enterprise UX Design

As we reach the end of our exploration into enterprise UX research and design, one thing is clear… The path to creating exceptional enterprise software is complex but rewarding. You need to develop a mindset that places the user’s needs and business objectives at the core of everything you do.

As someone who has walked this path, from the stumbling blocks of early career lessons to the triumphs of large-scale projects, I know the value of having a reliable partner in the design process.

So, let’s talk. Schedule a call with me, and together, we’ll chart a course toward a user experience that enterprise companies deserve.


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