Product Manager’s Guide To UX Research

The internet says everywhere that “everybody can do research". Well… Everybody can ask questions. Everybody can conduct a usability test. Sure, everybody can do it, with the right methods and the necessary skills. This article will provide a guideline to do UX research the right way. It will also break down some basic concepts related to UX research. 

What is UX research?

Most simply:

UX research gets feedback from target audience/users about a product.

That says target audience, not users. Why?

Often UX research proceeds not with those who already use a product (users) but the ones who will hopefully use it (the target audience).

This process reveals more and more about a target audience’s pain points, needs, motivation, fears and how they use or relate to a product.

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UX Research is an important part of the Product Design process. Check our e-book how you can implement research in your workflows: Product Manager’s Guide to UX Design.

How and When to do UX Research?

First determine your position, and then decide what kind of research to use.

We differentiate four different phases in a product lifecycle:

  • Discovery
  • Validation
  • Prototyping
  • Follow up


At this phase, search for a target audience’s problem and its solution. This will form the foundation of the product.

UX research methods for this phase:

These take a lot of time. All play roles in finding a real need or problem. It definitely pays off, although the time or the money often is lacking. We know.

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Recipe for a low budget UX research in the discovery phase:

Interviews: Talk with the target audience!

  • Why: Find out people’s needs, fears, motivation, habits etc. But most importantly, find out problems the product can solve.
  • How much: The project really determines this. To make a product for a very specific group, do 5 to 8 interviews for the first round.

Competitor Analysis: Check out the competition.

  • Why: On one hand, it determines market saturation, providing a feeling how difficult penetration proves. On the other, you can gather many good ideas for your project! Other products leave many user issues unsolved. Reflect on these problems with your own product.
  • How much: Again the project determines this, but check 4 to 7 competitors.

Recommended reading on UX Design processes (free e-book): Product Manager’s Guide to UX Design.


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Next, validate a solution for the problem when measuring the target audience’s interest for a product/feature idea.

UX research methods in this phase:

  • Fake door tests
  • Landing page tests
  • A/B tests

Recipe for low budget UX research:

Landing page tests: When making a new product, this method easily checks the target audience’s first reaction. Create a landing page and analyze its conversion.

  • Why: Coupled with paid ads, you can quickly see people’s first reaction to a product idea with a landing page test.
  • How much: It depends. Target a “high” conversion rate: 10% or more. The quantity of answers counts too. From ten people, a 10% conversion does not validate the product, yet. Build nothing on just one person’s opinion. Find the right platform to target precisely your audience.

Fake door tests: Use these tests for a feature idea of an existing product. Create a fake button in the app and measure how many users click on the button.

  • Why: Quick feedback from real users.
  • How much: Just as before, the percentage of the conversion counts.

*Tip: In the validation phase, we would advise you to do a proper market research to examine the competition and target market. Look at the war where you want to fight. Then count your ‘soldiers’, and see if you can win the game or not. 😉


ux research

Ideas now take shape for life. In this phase, make prototypes and test their usability. Run several iterations at this phase.

Modifying the prototype and running another round of usability tests costs less than fixing things in developed software.

UX research methods in this phase:

  • User tests
  • Heatmaps

Recipe for low budget UX research: User journey and user tests. Leave no methods out in this session. Sorry.

User test: Test ideas with the target audience. After designing the user journey, write a test script and run several user tests on the prototype.

  • Why: As mentioned, user tests indicate crucial problems at an early (and cheap) phase.
  • How much: Until all the serious usability problems have solutions. Test one version of the prototype with at least three or four people. The prototype may then not retain any serious usability issues in smaller products. But a huge application may need many more iterations.


ux research

After the launch, many options to get feedback from users still remain. Indeed, now real users can provide data.

UX research methods in this phase:

Recipe for low budget UX research:

  • UX metrics: The right measurements can provide data about User Experience. Quantify the feedback.
    • Why: Data tells the truth. The right measurements can tell what users really do on a site. They show the important retention, for example.
    • How much: The fewer targeted metrics, the easier the decision. So in UX metrics, aim not at the quantity but the quality.

*Tip: Use the HEART model to set up the right metrics. After defining them, use multiple analytics tools to measure user behaviour. Just to mention a few: Hotjar, Google Analytics, Google Firebase.

A Step-By-Step Guide

The ultimate guide to doing research (with user test method) which we use at UX Studio:

  1. Make a plan – Form the research questions. Articulate the kind of results desired.
  2. Recruit participants – Find the right people to test with (someone from the target audience or users). Invite them and set appointments.
  3. Conduct research – Time to use the chosen research method, conduct (and record!) the user test with the participants.
  4. Synthesize – Analyze and summarize the results.
  5. Act – Use them! Share them with the team. If needed, modify the test script, prototype, or research plan and start again!

Who Can Do UX Research?

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Soft skills

So who has the qualifications to do UX research? As with other professions, a few specific soft skills come up here, too. The most necessary soft skills include:

  • Curiosity
  • Empathy
  • Communication
  • Organization
  • Critical thinking


Lacking curiosity about the users makes getting reliable results more difficult. Superficiality does not work, curiosity and determination help in digging deeper into a problem.


Let go of yourself. Let go of assumptions and expectations. Research involves seeing a problem from another point of view. That’s whole point.


UX research necessitates good communication skills. It involves contribution: Communicate with the users on the interview, and with the team about the results. Receive and give the user feedback in a precise way.

Not sharing it with others has the same effect as if it hadn’t happened at all!


UX research also poses a challenge in that it requires a lot of organization and logistics management. Prepare everything before the test/interview and organize the results in a good overview, without getting lost the details.

*Tip: A research system can help greatly in organizing huge research data.

Critical thinking

Related to having curiosity and empathy, think critically about yourself and your assumptions. Listen skeptically to what the target audience says in an interview, using multiple research methods at the same time.

Your ‘to-do’ list:

  • Consider which phase the product has reached (discovery? validation?)
  • Choose the right research methods based on the budget
  • Work on the soft skills
  • Share your findings! 

Have any experience with UX research? Any negative experience? Did it not deliver the desired type of feedback? Did the lack of reliable feedback from users frustrate the team? Share your experience with us! We really want to know what others learned too!

We wrote about UX research extensively in our Product Design book. You can order it with free worldwide shipping now!

Discover users, see the real problem, uncover motivations & needs, cut out bullshit, share the truth, find a solution, create a vision.
If you want me on your side, just give me a great coffee. ;)