Table of Contents
What Is UX Research?
UX research is a critical component of UI/UX designs that helps create exceptional User Experiences. The UX research process is essential to understanding users’ needs, motivations, and behaviors to make informed design decisions. This article explores the definition of UX research, its importance, the UX research process, when you need to do it, and UX Research Methods.
What Does a UX Researcher Do?
The purpose of the user experience researcher is to understand and discover human behavior and performance to inform the design process. Finding valuable insight that can guide the development of User-friendly and effective design is the UX research’s goal. (2)
In general, detailed information is gathered by UX researchers from the User through qualitative and quantitative methods. Systematically, not only, the data from Interviews, Field Studies, User surveys, Eye-tracking, and so on collected by them to evaluate and find the patterns to help the company make a user-friendly design, but also the UX researcher represents the user’s perspective and assists users in reaching their objectives.
Delivering the most successful product at a minimal price is the final goal of the UX researcher. They also assist in minimizing the risk of expensive mistakes made by developers, designers, and engineers during implementation. (3)
It can be a reason why a UX researcher is becoming a vital component of modern corporate success.
Types of UX Research:
In this section, we will tackle overarching questions that individuals may encounter when exploring various types of UX research. One key question is: What types of UX research exist (4)?
So, we will explore 6 approaches for research types, while qualitative and quantitative approaches are more common. (1)
Qualitative, and Quantitative Research:
In Qualitative research, we try to answer “Why, and How to fix”, while in Quantitative research the question is “How many and How much”. (5) So by considering these questions, we expect the results from the first type to be non-numerical, and the results from the second type of research to be numerical. Quantitative research focuses on numbers and statistics. For instance, the percentage of users who, successfully, complete the task, the number of errors or bugs they come across, and the average time for a user to finish a task, are all examples of qualitative research.
Attitudinal, and Behavioral Research:
The distinction between attitudinal and behavioral research is crucial. To better understand, attitudinal research focuses on “what people say,” while behavioral research explores into “what people do”. (5) On the other hand, the first one refers to the user’s feelings and attitudes toward an experience, while the latter refers to, “Where do they click on a page? ‘, “What navigational path do they take through an app? and so on.
Generative, and Evaluation Research:
Evaluation research, often known as evaluative research, has quite different objectives than generative research. You can better define the issue you want to solve by using generative research. In contrast, evaluation research supports the assessment of an already-existing design (such as prototype, final, or alternative form). (4)
UX Research Methods:
Regarding the previous part, it is clear that User Experience Research has several types which we explore the below:
Grounded theory: This method, developed by Glaser and Strauss in the 1960s, is based on empirical data and hypotheses. Unlike traditional approaches, in this method, the theories will be derived after identifying patterns and establishing categories. (6) (7)
Focus groups: In this method, six to nine participants will be invited to share their attitudes and concerns regarding the user interface. Additionally, other techniques will be required for a comprehensive analysis. (6) (7)
Heat Mapping: One of the most effective user experience (UX) research methods is using a Heat Map. This approach allows researchers to not only track and analyze how users behave on a website or app but also gain valuable insights into their clicks, scrolls, and time spent. These insights can then be used to make well-informed design decisions. (8).
Interviews: In this method, the researchers give a chance to explore a topic with a participant in depth, follow up with them by asking questions, gather various ideas, and be ready to accept unexpected ideas and thoughts. So, they can gather valuable data such as the participant’s body language and other cues that can’t be reached easily from other methods. (7)
Card sorting: Card sorting is another easy and cheap method to connect to the user’s thoughts. In this method, participants categorize topics based on their understanding and perception. So, it’s a great way to understand what might be intuitive to users and what web or platform design structure users expect. (7)
Surveys: The survey is a quantitative method tool, however, the open-ended survey is a qualitative method. Users by sharing a story or their experience, offering an in-depth opinion, or elaborating on their responses, can help the researchers understand why they chose to answer a certain way and provide an insight into the process of their thought. (6) (7)
Field Study: In this method, the researchers gather the information of users in their natural environment, either in person or remotely. This study aims to collect the data from user’s behavior, context, and their needs. For finding real-world interaction with a product or service, this kind of study will be very valuable. Statistical analysis, user personas, and user journey maps are important ways to find hidden patterns in the data to use for better User experience design decisions. (8)
Statistical analysis: From the perspective of someone with a degree in Statistics, the most direct method of analyzing data to uncover hidden patterns and trends is through statistical analysis. This approach allows researchers to gain a better understanding of both ‘what has happened’ and ‘what will happen.’ By addressing these questions, they can derive valuable insights and make informed decisions in the UX design process.
User Personas: Based on user research data, which represents specific user types interacting with a product or service, the user persona was created through imaginative characterization. The user persona is used to show products or services that meet the needs of the users. (9)
User journey maps: A journey map is a representation of the steps a person takes to achieve a goal. Initially, it involves outlining user actions on a timeline, followed by incorporating their thoughts and emotions to craft a narrative. This narrative is then refined to create a visualization. The terms ‘user journey map’ and ‘customer journey map’ are interchangeable, both illustrating how a person engages with your product or service. While the choice of terminology may vary, the focus should be on the content rather than the label, as it captures the essence of user experiences. (10)
The given picture shows the various types of methods by categorizing them into their expected class. (5)
Why Is It so Important to Conduct User Research?
Solving user problems, and creating products and services that are user-friendly and accessible is the final objective aim of the UX design, Therefore, the significance of the UX researcher’s role is highlighted here.
User research or UX research is essential because:
- Cultivating Empathy With Users
- Identifies the Exact User Problem
- Data-Driven Design Decisions
- Time- and Money-Saver
- Better User Experience (10).
1. Cultivating Empathy with Users:
The vast majority of UX researchers believe that empathy is the one of most important skills. Empathy with users means “Walking a mile in the user’s shoes”, and understanding her/his feelings as possible. If the UX researcher is aware of the user’s need and has a deep understanding of their feeling and experiences to create the products or services, then he/she can start to envision the most helpful solutions. Through empathy, you not only have the opportunity to observe, speak, and listen to your target users but also gain direct insights into their characteristics, the problems they encounter, and what they might need from the product you’re designing. (10)
2. Identifies the Exact User Problem:
Identifying the problems that you are going to solve for your user, is the other important step of UX research. So, you can focus on fixing them in your design. For example, if a client wants a website redesign because many people quickly leave the site, you need to figure out why. User research helps uncover those reasons, making sure your design changes solve the issues users care about. (10)
3. Data-Driven Design Decisions:
When the problems are identified by the UX research, it’s essential to come up with the right solutions. You can make a solution by guesswork or using actual data. Avoid relying on guesswork, as it may cause bias. Instead, conduct your solutions on actual data and a thorough understanding of patterns and trends that result from statistical analysis. (10)
4. Time- and Money-Saver:
If you and your client decide to provide a product or service without any research phase, not only the chance of delivering a user-friendly product reduced, but it may also have loads of usability issues, design flaws, or simply not meet a real user need.
Imagine you have a product intended to fill a gap in the market, but due to the lack of a research phase, it is full of with mistakes and errors. Consequently, you’ll need to use various strategies and unnecessary efforts to find your users, leading to a waste of time and money for both you and your client, and possibly causing damage to the brand. (10)
5. Better User Experience:
Surely, if we conduct deep user research before making a new product, it ends up with a better user experience. The best brands, products, and services deliver an excellent user experience. They provide their target users with what they want, and they can do that because they invest in user research.
You can’t have good UX without good user research. (10)
In this article, we not only defined the concept of User Experience Research and explored its types, but we also provided a brief overview of some common UX research methods. Additionally, we highlighted five important reasons for choosing UX Research.
Overall, UX research plays a crucial and essential role in companies that provide products and services. The primary goal of any company is to create user-friendly products that satisfy users. Imagine a situation where a company introduces a new product without conducting any research beforehand. This could result in unnecessary efforts to introduce the product to users, so, a waste of time and money for the company and potential damage to the brand’s reputation will occur.
UX research encompasses various types, including Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research, Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Research, and Generative vs. Evaluation Research. Each type involves specific methods, and we will briefly explain some of them: Grounded Theory, Focus Groups, Heat Mapping, Interviews, Card Sorting, Surveys, Field Study, Statistical Analysis, User Personas, and User Journey Maps. With each method, valuable information is gathered. When the results provide qualitative data, using statistical methods for analysis is an effective way to uncover hidden patterns and trends, addressing questions about ‘what has happened’ and ‘what will happen.’ By answering these questions, a UX researcher gains valuable insights to make informed decisions in the UX design process.
What are UX research methods?
Each type of UX research has various methods, some of the well-known methods are Grounded Theory, Focus Groups, Heat Mapping, Interviews, Card Sorting, Surveys, Field Study, Statistical Analysis, User Personas, and User Journey Maps.
What is the UX research process?
Objective, Hypotheses, Methods, Conduct, Synthesis.
What are the UX research skills?
The top 5 skills of a UX researcher are Data Analysis, Research Techniques, Collaboration, Data Synthesis, and Communication.
What are the UX research approaches?
Qualitative, and Quantitative Research, Attitudinal, and Behavioral Research, Generative, and Evaluation Research.
Is there any specific course or tutorial for UX research?
Yes, of course. Google Career Certifications and Coursera are two common sites for obtaining certifications. However, YouTube and other websites also provide videos for learning
What are the essential tools for UX researchers? Yes, some of the tools such as Maze, Loop11, kardSort, Hotjar, SurveyMonkey, etc.