The 80/20 Rule: More Bang for Your UX Research Buck
A fast, powerful way to find your product’s biggest issues
Long, long ago, in the year 2013, I stumbled across an article by Jeff Sauro on the 80/20 rule. After reading his description of conducting Pareto Principle–based user research, I had an epiphany: I realized that I could modify what he was doing to obtain data that my organization had really been struggling to uncover.
What is the Pareto Principle?
In Richard Koch’s book The 80/20 Principle: The Secret of Achieving More with Less, he details how, in 1897, a brilliant researcher named Vilfredo Pareto discovered that the majority of the wealth in England and other countries was predictably controlled by a small minority of the population. Pareto’s research is also known as “the 80/20 rule” and “law of vital few,” among other names.
In the early 1900s, Joseph M. Juran discovered Pareto’s research and realized that the concept also applied to tons of other situations in life: A tiny percentage of criminals caused most crimes, a small percentage of dangerous processes caused a majority of accidents, etc.
He also realized that the concept could be applied to improve consumer and industrial goods. He created a consulting service to work with companies to identify top areas they could improve upon to make the most impact with product enhancements.
Linking the Pareto Principle to user research
By applying the Pareto Principle to user research, you can identify the biggest culprits in your product’s usability issues and feature gaps, and then spend your valuable time and money where they will have the most impact.
Imagine you could uncover a tiny code change that would vastly improve your product UX, for instance — it’s possible you can.
In my case, the principle was startlingly accurate. Our research showed that 18% of our core product areas were causing 83% of our clients’ frustrations.
Would a statistician or professional researcher cringe and shed some tears if they saw the method and data I’m about to show you? Absolutely. We aren’t even calculating standard deviations…