The Value of UX Discovery in edTech Product Design

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

When you’re ready to design a new edTech product, you’re already on a tight schedule. While it might seem like you can’t afford to spend three months on the UX discovery process, skipping or accelerating valuable UX research efforts often results in a less effective product.

If you want to create a learning tool that has deep, lasting value, some version of UX discovery is essential. With the right team of experts, the discovery process can also easily be scaled to your needs and budget. For example, if you’re designing an edTech product, a UX team that specializes in UX research for learning tools can help you define your research and testing parameters more efficiently, simply because of their expertise. 

In this article, you’ll learn how UX discovery benefits your product team through risk management, stronger marketplace performance, and an optimized engineering process. You’ll also learn more about which deliverables to expect at the end of a discovery engagement, how discovery really affects your product timeline, and why hiring an external UX team might be the right move for you.

Let’s dive in!

3 Benefits of the UX Discovery Process

When you begin the UX discovery process for a new edTech product or feature, you’ll see immediate return on investment (ROI). These are the 3 biggest benefits of conducting UX research and competitive analysis before you design a single pixel of your learning tool.

  1. Risk Management

    If you design an edTech tool you haven’t tested, or create a product you haven’t planned for, you’re less likely to identify a user-centered solution. Even if you have incredible learning content, beautiful design work, and breathtaking technology, you’ll still be making a lot of guesses about what your users actually need.

    The UX discovery process is a great way to mitigate this risk and focus on delivering a high-quality tool for your users. Even if you already know a lot about your users, user experience research (UXR) can help you identify gaps in your knowledge. UXR is also a great way to gain insights into persistent user problems.

    Having UXR for your edTech product is a huge asset. Desk research will help you narrow your focus as you conduct specific user tests or a competitive audit, accelerating the product design process in the long term.

    If you have the resources, you can also conduct UX research internally and identify areas for improvement. You can even outsource your UX team and hire researchers who will identify your biggest risks and help you decide how to use the discovery process effectively.

    Ultimately, conducting user research at the beginning of discovery helps you spend your precious budget wisely. It typically costs 10% or less of your total spend for design and engineering—but it will save you plenty of missteps and extra work along the way.

  2. Stronger Marketplace Performance

    Up-front discovery work ensures that you’re going in the right direction when you begin designing your edTech product or feature. With accurate information about your users and their needs in your corner, your learning tool will compete in an already-crowded marketplace.

    After all, both teachers and administrators notice when edTech products don’t reflect their realities in the classroom. If your product doesn’t work well in a school setting, you risk contributing to more user frustration and more administrative overhead. That’s not the kind of learning tool that gets glowing customer reviews—or word-of-mouth recommendations!

    UX research also allows you to understand your users’ day-to-day needs and challenges in a more nuanced way. When product teams understand and empathize with these specifics, you design a more valuable product overall. What’s more, both teachers and administrators will appreciate your efforts—and be more likely to buy your tool!

  3. An Optimized Engineering Process

    Last but not least, thorough UX research ensures a more optimized, less-wasteful engineering process and helps you mitigate risks.

    Throughout the UX discovery process, you’ve likely narrowed the focus of your design efforts. Thanks to the help of a specialized edTech UX team, you’ll also have a surgical, strategic approach to solving the most pressing user challenges. This means your engineering team will be ready and raring to go to solve the right problems the first time.

    For example, consistent user challenges with onboarding may actually point to UX challenges that can be solved with better experience and design work. If you think you already know the problem and don’t conduct UX research, you could work out expensive solutions based on incorrect assumptions. You risk not solving the real problem at all—or missing out on opportunities for integration by trying to build something custom. There goes your engineering budget!But a specialized edTech UX team can save you this headache. Thanks to a deep expertise in edTech products and ecosystems, this team can look at the results of your user research and analysis to make an informed product strategy. And that’s how you get the major ROI of your discovery process!

The UX Discovery Deliverables That Help You Design Better edTech Products

What’s the result of all this desk research, aside from a better edTech product? A strategy backed by evidence! Here are the three discovery deliverables that help this process along:

  • A competitive audit: By researching your competitors, your UX team identifies opportunities and pitfalls for learning tools like the one you and your team are planning to design. 
  • A research deck: This final deliverable communicates highly detailed user research findings, analysis, and recommendations in a digestible way. With these details in hand, you can align all your stakeholders and make decisions quickly.
    The research deck also helps your development team make their recommendations and road map their own engineering timeline. Overall, this document should allow all the teams involved to accurately scope the rest of the work needed to get your learning tool in the hands of teachers and students. 
  • Feature priorities: Now that the evidence is in, your UX team can support you on identifying a clear set of feature priorities for your timeline and budget. Determine which features must be present in your minimum viable product (MVP), and which to prioritize for the first iteration of design work.

By the end of the UX discovery process, these strategic assets will demonstrate what your UX team learned and what they think you should do next. Together with your internal stakeholders, you’ll begin to collaboratively roadmap your project timeline and make feature priorities based on the results of user research. Then it’s finally time for a project kick-off!

How the UX Discovery Process Impacts Your Project Timeline

We know how challenging it can be to build in time for discovery. You want to get moving and begin the design process ASAP.

While the discovery process is scalable, multiple elements impact how long your discovery process will take. These include:

  • Research methodology. Some research methods, like qualitative user interviews and impact studies, can be time-consuming. Make sure your UX researchers have picked the right methodology for the scope of discovery.
  • User recruitment. Recruiting users for testing takes time and coordination. For example, if you only want to talk to a specialized set of users, like families with students who need speech therapy, the recruitment process will likely take longer.
  • Internal stakeholder alignment. It can be challenging to get all your stakeholders in the same room at the same time. Conducting stakeholder sessions virtually may speed things along.
  • Data needs. Can you use existing Google Analytics for the research at hand? Or do you need survey data that isn’t yet ready to make your decisions?

If you’ve already accounted for some amount of UX discovery in your product timeline, you can expect a UX team to request anywhere from 6 weeks to 2 months to gather all the information they need to provide value.

Why an External UX Team Provides Value During Discovery

Whether you’re designing a new edTech product or rolling out a new feature, there’s value in hiring an external UX team to consult with your product stakeholders in discovery.

This is true even if you already have a UX research team in-house! For example, your internal team might work regularly with users or conduct A/B testing for new features. This makes them extraordinarily knowledgeable about specific challenges and user needs. 

But even the best internal teams don’t always know what to do next to solve a persistent challenge. An external UX team can help your product team develop a plan for using internal research or expanding the scope of your research and testing efforts.

Sometimes the ROI of an external UX team is that they increase the value of your own research! By putting in place research and testing practices that help your internal team succeed, an external UX team uses their expertise to make your existing work more innovative and strategic.

No matter what shape your product team takes, specialized edTech research will help you mitigate risks, align your stakeholders more quickly, and optimize the design process from start to finish. UXR is the key to designing learning tools that perform well—and outlast the competition.

Are you designing a new learning tool or rolling out a new edTech feature? Find out how we can support you! We specialize in UXR in the field of edTech. Contact us below.

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