Usability research is an integral part of the user-centric design process and is necessary for developing products that live up to users’ expectations and provide real value to their end users. This in-depth guide covers all the bases of user experience research, including research methods and best practices from leading industry experts.
UX research is an impactful tool at any point in the product’s life cycle. Drop us a line and strengthen your product by gaining a better understanding of your users.
What is UX research?
UX (user experience) research is the analysis of user behavior, needs, and pain points to improve a product and design processes with valuable insights. Having a solid insight into your target audience is essential for making informed decisions and creating products that meet their demand.
UX research is an essential part of the design process and also an important business strategy. It can help to validate the product reflects user needs, not the designer’s biases, preferences, or assumptions.
Benefits of UX research
Incorporating UX research into the design and product development process allows you to gain a deeper understanding of user behavior and make data-driven decisions. The following are some ways in which user research can improve the prototyping, development, and launch phases of user-centered design:
- Get an in-depth picture of what and how to build.
- Learn what will bring real value to your customers
- Remove bias from the UX design.
- Test and validate ideas.
- Identify areas of improvement.
- Make the development shorter and more effective.
- Decide which road to take, and what you should do next.
By continuously testing the design, the designer can prioritize features, iterate to optimize the user experience, and come up with user-friendly solutions. UX studio is here for you at every crossroads in your product’s growth. Reach out to us and let’s decide the next steps together during a free consultation.
When to Conduct User Experience Research?
UX research is beneficial in cases where you feel like there’s room for improvement. For example, if you notice a low conversion or a high bounce rate. But it’s also a good idea to conduct user experience research long before product development.
Phases like a product’s idea, iterative design, and launch can all benefit from UXR. We differentiate among four different phases in a product life cycle:
User research can and needs to be done in each of these phases. It can help you reduce the risk or prevent creating a digital product that doesn’t serve users or doesn’t serve them in the way they want. However, the exact method highly depends on which phase the product is currently in.
Top UX Research Methods
UX researchers use various methods and best practices to identify problematic areas and design opportunities. They choose the best ones according to the phase in the product life cycle.
Dairy / Camera studies
Ethnographic field studies
True intent studies
Search for user problems, solution, and discover opportunities.
Prototype feedback & testing
Validate product/feature ideas and examine how to address user needs.
Evaluate the design and measure product performance.
Surveys (email or online)
This is the follow-up phase. See the problems in context, find new ones, and discover opportunities.
For UI UX design projects, we usually apply a handful of these methods like user interviews, clickstream analysis, usability tests, and analytics review. These can be useful at any time during the product’s lifespan. If you need help with your UX research, feel free to book a meeting and share your current goals with us.
What’s the Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?
We can distinguish between 2 basic methods: quantitative and qualitative research. The 2 methods aren’t mutually exclusive, because whatever you want to prove empirically, you can combine the tools of both types. And researchers tend to conduct both for a broad and detailed picture of the target audience.
Qualitative research seeks answers to qualitative questions and records non-numerical data. Typically observations and insights about user habits, problems, expectations, and behavior.
- In-depth and comprehensive information
- Examine the why and how
- Produce insights and quotes
- Produce assumptions about the population
- Smaller number of participants required
Examples: Usability testing, interviews, card-sorting
Whereas, quantitative research looks for answers to quantitative questions and measures data that can be quantified. For example, the number of clicks on a website, or how many people opened an email.
- Examine the what, when, where or who
- Statistical or numerical analysis of data usage
- Produce numbers
- Prove assumptions about the population
- Large number of participants required
Example: A/B tests, surveys, Web analytics
What Does a UX Researcher Do?
User experience researchers (UX researchers) are focusing on understanding user needs and frustrations to improve the usability of digital products. They perform in-depth investigations using qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Ultimately, the researchers pass their insights to UX designers who then can create the right product that meets user needs.
UX researchers conduct research using different user research methods like interviews, surveys, and focus groups to learn more about the customers. They analyze the research data to uncover obstacles and areas of improvement. Furthermore, they define the problems’ scope to ensure the right things are prioritized and present their findings to the wider team.
Which UX Research Tools to Use?
Here at UX studio, we have a large research toolbox, but we’ve picked a few you can start with if you want to get into usability research.
A spreadsheet/database-like cloud-based platform. Search and categorize participants and session insights.
Organizing and planning
Online collaboration whiteboard. You can diagram, mind map, and create flowcharts and presentations.
Workshops, planning, and presenting
Product experience insights tool. It gives you behavior analytics like heatmaps, screen recordings, and unmoderated research.
Traditional analytics solution. Use it for unmoderated research, and get reports on traffic and metrics like bounce rates and user demographics.
Rapid testing platform. Use it for remote testing, surveys, and IA testing. It has collaboration features and pre-built templates.
Customer research platform. You can research remotely and note-take in real-time, and do moderated and unmoderated testing. It also has a collaborative dashboard.
User research platform. You can recruit, and do moderated remote user research and testing in real-time. They have their own secure video calling platform with automatic recording so you analyze your videos, mark highlights, and view transcriptions.
6 Basic Steps of The UX Research Process
If you’re new to UX research, here’s a step-by-step list of what to consider before you begin your user experience tests:
1. Set Objectives
As a first step, think about the problems and opportunities you want to investigate and write down some questions and topics of interest related to those.
What do you need to find out about your users and their needs? What outputs do you expect from the research? What part of the user journey causes frustration? Why do people abandon their shopping carts? Get together with your team and brainstorm about these.
2. Select Methods
After settling on your goals, the following step is to figure out the information you’ll need and the method you’ll apply. Your research strategy will be determined by the objectives, complexity, and timeframe of your project. Make use of several user research methods to make sure no stone is left unturned and no gaps are left unfilled.
3. Create a Research Plan and Scripts
The plan is a simple document that serves as an overview and guideline for conducting the research. It helps establish priorities, clarify objectives, and guarantee that all parties are on the same page.
In addition to this, you should also work to develop a script you will use during the interviews. It’s good to get all of the questions together, and then knead them into a shape that flows through the discussion without leading it.
Sample script for user testing
- Introduction, a few words about the project
- How long it is going to take, and what’s going to happen
- No good or wrong answers
- Think aloud
- Recording permission
Warm-up / mini-interview
- Release the pressure of the test
- To understand them better and to create a realistic scenario
- Interviews can be the basis later on for longitudinal research
- Scenario with realistic details
- Overall experience
- Their perceived difficulty and satisfaction
- What they would keep, what they would change
4. Plan Processes and Workload
It’s necessary to clarify who’ll be in charge of user recruitment, test setup, and primary communication. You should also talk about how you intend to carry out the tests. Who is introducing who, who is moderating, who is taking notes, and where and how are they being recorded? Will it be 1 person or more?
5. Conduct interviews and usability testing
All the plans are carried out at this step. Start with usability testing to check the user-friendliness of your website. Test its structure, flow, and navigation.
Moreover, you can utilize heatmaps to identify precisely where users are clicking and scrolling. A/B and multivariate testing can also reveal which experience design solutions are most well-received by visitors.
When you facilitate the interviews don’t forget to:
- Create a comfortable atmosphere.
- Observe the user (learn how they solve tasks, the problems they face, words they use)
- Let users struggle, don’t over-moderate.
- Ask follow-up questions.
- Remind the tester to think out loud.
- Take loose notes.
- Pay attention to time.
- Make sure the test reaches its goal.
Here are some tips, on how to respond during user tests:
Ask “What's this button for?”
“What do you think it’s for?”
Keep talking about what they’d do
“Can you show me what you would do?”
Mention something new and interesting
“Please tell me more about this”
Say “I’d need this and that feature here”
“What would you use it for?”
Don’t talk for more than 5-10 seconds
“What are you thinking about?”
Feel insecure and ask if they're doing right
“There are no right or wrong answers, you're helping us to identify important things.”
6. Analyze and Present findings
By now, you should have quite a bit of insight. Get your notes organized, review recordings, and categorize your data based on user pain points, trends, and repetitions.
The next step is to analyze your findings. Create a UX analysis report in which you write down key findings, design issues, best practices, and design recommendations. It’s equally important to keep it short, use screenshots/ video snippets to communicate findings, and include positive findings and user quotes.
An additional objective of this step is to present the findings to the appropriate parties. Give an actionable plan of the next steps on how to improve your product based on the acquired feedbacks.
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