The Devastating Effects of a Weak UX Research and User Testing Process
Once upon a time in a galaxy far far away, StumbleUpon was awesome, it actually drove more traffic than Facebook. Then their UX process failed somewhere. The graph above was featured from a study carried out in the first three weeks of August 2011. It showed StumbleUpon drove more than 50% of social media referral traffic, while Facebook had almost 39% and Youtube, Twitter, Reddit and others had less than 4% each. Driving more traffic than Facebook? Nobody could argue against its throne of awesomeness.
A few months later, StumbleUpon went through a user interface redesign and tweaked their stumbling algorithm. The engagement started falling even though more users were registering. The service that was once driving MORE TRAFFIC THAN FACEBOOK, is now struggling to survive and stay relevant. Somebody somewhere made a very poor decision along their development process and it brings many questions regarding their UX processes and strategy to mind.
How much user research did they do for their design changes on the interface as well as the backend algorithms? How well did they really understand their users’ behavior and psychology beyond sitting in an office staring at metrics? Did they cover all their user demographics during research and testing if they did do any? Did they leave enough time in their software development process for user research, usability testing and user evaluations/feedback? What types of tests did they carry out and were the test conditions carefully considered for possible bias and misinterpretation? An article on The Verge quotes their top decision makers saying “We know what our roadmap is, we just need to execute on that.”, which that doesn’t sound like ‘we know what our users want’, and that seems to be the problem since August 2011. I’d love to hear from the UX team at StumbleUpon on the ground, talking to and observing users on a regular basis face to face, and hear their side of the story to identify the weak link in their UX processes and strategy.
Check out the social media referral statistics article on Mashable from August 2011.