UX research or user experience research is one of the most critical steps in UX design. To design products that are useful and easy to use, and most importantly solve a problem that users have, UX research and user testing needs to influence every design decision.
What is User Research?
There are many different types of research methods, such as ethnographic interviews, to classic usability studies, to quantitive measurements of return on investment (ROI) on your user experience design. What all User Research methods have in common is that at its centre is the user and how they think and behave – their needs and motivations. This is done through observation techniques, task analysis and other feedback methodology.
There are two main types of user research;
- Quantitative Methods: This type of user research method is primarily exploratory research and is used to quantify the problem, by generating data that can be converted into usable statistics. A few common data collection methods are surveys like online surveys, paper surveys, mobile surveys, kiosk surveys, online polls etc.
- Qualitative Methods: Qualitative user research is an assessment of user behaviour based on observation. This can be done through several different methods such as contextual observation, ethnographic studies, interviews, field studies and moderated usability tests.
The type of user research will depend on the type of product you are developing, the kind of timeline you have and the environment.
Types of UX Research Methods
1. Card Sorting:
This type of method allows users to group and sort a site’s information into a logical structure, that helps inform decisions about navigation and the site’s information architecture. This kind of method ensures that the site structure matches the way users think.
2. Contextual Interviews:
This method enables the observation of users in their natural environment, and gives a better understanding of the way users behave.
3. First Click Testing:
A testing method that is focused on navigation, which can be done on a functioning website, a prototype or a wireframe.
4. Focus Groups:
In this method, a UX researcher will conduct a moderated discussion with a group of users, allowing insights into user attitudes, ideas and desires.
5. Heuristic Evaluation/Expert Review:
In this method, a group of usability experts evaluate a website against a list of established guidelines.
Interviews are one-on-one discussions with users show how a particular user works. They enable design teams to get detailed information about a user’s attitudes, desires and experiences.
7. Parallel Design:
This is a design methodology that involves several UX designers pursuing the same effort simultaneously but independently with the intention of combining their learnings and the best aspects of each for the ultimate solution.
This method allows the design team to explore ideas before implementing them by creating a mock-up of the site. This mock up could be on paper or an interactive HTML page.
Surveys are a series of questions that are asked to multiple users that help your team garner insights about the users of your products.
10. System Usability Scale:
The System Usability Scale is a technology independent ten-item scale used to evaluate the subjective evaluation of the usability of your product.
11. Task Analysis:
This UX research method involves learning about user goals, including what they want to achieve on your website, thus helping you understand the tasks that they will perform on your site.
12. Usability Testing:
Usability testing helps in identifying user frustrations and the problems they face with your website, app or service through one on one sessions where a real life user performs tasks while a moderator observes them and makes notes.
13. Use Cases:
These provide a description of how users use a particular feature of a product. They provide a detailed look at how users interact with the site, and includes the steps users take to accomplish each task.
Why is User Research important?
1. To create designs that are relevant
The most important reason for conducting user research, is to gain an understanding of your users. By understanding your users, the design team can make designs truly relevant to them. Without a clear understanding of your users, you cannot be sure whether or now your design will be a success. This is the most important step of the design process. Conducting different types of interviews and observations of people in the context where they will use the design is a common method of this type of user research. This step is usually conducted at the very beginning of the project to ensure that the overall direction of the design process is relevant to potential customers and users.
2. To create designs that are easy and pleasurable to use
User tests are a great way to determine the usability of your products. Users have an expectation that products should be easy to learn and use. User tests work best when they are integrated into the design process so that the product is tested iteratively and from an early stage of development.
3. To understand the ROI of your UX design
When teams can show that the changes they made in the design generated more sales or resulted in more customers, or even made work processes more efficient, they can make a much more stronger case for investing in UX. User studies to measure the effectiveness of your design are mostly quantitative and can take different forms. Designers can do A/B tests during development that compare different versions of their design, or they can do studies after the product is released to measure differences in use patterns. With apps and webpages, designers often build in different types of analytics to inform them of different user patterns.
User research methods are at the centre of every exceptional user experience. Since UX is subjective, understanding the needs and goals of potential users and the context is unique for every product. By choosing the most appropriate UX research method, and applying them, designers can develop products that are more effective and efficient and ultimately more useful to the customer.