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Editor’s Note: User and Market Research

At the risk of oversimplifying, most marketing professionals would probably say there is no difference between a vertical market and what usability professionals call a specific user profile or persona. Marketing’s traditional focus is on demographic information supported by large sample sizes. User research, on the other hand, traditionally focuses more on the specific user’s tasks—whether they are completed and how.

Branding is where the two disciplines renew their mutual dependence. The combination is especially important on the Internet, where product and product information is often the same thing.

If a product brand is equal to the whole customer experience, then the use of the product becomes a key factor, and understanding how people use products demands some understanding of target customers and demographic information. This special issue of UX offers five views of user experience from experts in the merged or collaborating disciplines:

  • As a market research veteran, Steve Turner has long advocated a usability component in his colleagues’ projects. Now he suggests a complementary proposition: asking usability professionals to remember the marketing aspect of their research projects.
  • With experience on both sides of the traditional divide, Amy Buckner describes the seven-step process she uses when clients request combined marketing and usability research.
  • Stephanie Rosenbaum describes a brave young startup company that wanted all the research at once—and how the consultants delivered both quantitative and qualitative results that made a business difference.
  • When Wells Fargo Bank’s Internet Services Group merged marketing and usability into one department, Robin Beers began leading the usability half of the team and participating in the discovery of challenges and solutions resulting from the merger.
  • With a bricks-and-mortar architectural background, Leo Frishberg now proposes a schematic language for talking about experience in the abstract—a graphical concept that transcends the vocabularies of the traditional silos.

When creators of technology products become more responsive to customers’ needs, and customer organizations become more conscious of the true impact of technology products on productivity, then the familiar distinction between customers (those who buy the product) and users (those who must get work done with it) begins to dissolve.

The complete user experience evolves from combinations of marketing message, product use, and word of mouth—experience over time. Usability practitioners and marketing professionals are finding new ways to combine their efforts, and our experts can show us the way.