user research, ux research

What is UX research and why is it so important?

User experience research, also known as UX research, is an essential component of the user experience design process.

It is usually done at the start of a project and includes various types of research methodologies to gather valuable data and feedback. You’ll engage and observe your target users during user research to learn about their needs, behaviors, and pain points in relation to the product or service you’re designing.

Finally, user research distinguishes between designing based on assumptions and guesswork and actually creating something that solves a real user problem. To put it another way, don’t skip the research stage!

Don’t worry if you’re new to user research. We will define UX research and explain why it is so important. We’ll also show you how to plan your user research and introduce you to some of the most important user research methods.

To help you understand the concept behind user research better, we have divided the topic into multiple sections. You can skip ahead using the menu below:

  1. What exactly is UX research?
  2. What is the goal of UX research?
  3. How to Structure Your UX Research?
  4. An overview of various research methods and when to use them.

Ready? Let’s get started.

1. What exactly is UX research?

The systematic analysis of your users in order to collect insights that will inform the design process is known as user experience research. You’ll set out to understand your users’ requirements, attitudes, pain points, and behaviors using various user research methodologies (processes like task analyses look at how users really traverse the product experience—not just how they should or claim they do).

It comprises several sorts of research methods to acquire both qualitative and quantitative data in connection to your product or service. It is often done at the beginning of a project, but it is incredibly helpful throughout.

Read more: What It’s Like to Be a UX Researcher?

Before we proceed, consider the distinction between qualitative and quantitative data.

Qualitative vs Quantitative data

Qualitative UX research yields descriptive data that focuses on how people think and feel. It aids in the discovery of your users’ perspectives, issues, causes, and motives.

Read more: A Beginner’s Guide to Qualitative UX Research

Quantitative UX research, on the other hand, generates numerical data that can be quantified and analyzed using statistics. Quantitative data is utilized to quantify your consumers’ opinions and behavior.

User research seldom depends on a single type of data collecting and frequently combines qualitative and quantitative research methodologies to provide a more complete picture. The data may be used for an existing product to gather insight to assist enhance the product experience, or it can be applied to a completely new product or service to provide a baseline for UX, design, and development.

You should be able to grasp the following topics within the context of your product or service based on the data acquired during your user research phase:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are their requirements?
  • What do they desire?
  • How do they operate?
  • How do they want to do them?

When considering the why of user research, keep in mind that it’s simpler than you think to neglect entire categories of consumers. It’s critical to guarantee that you’re performing inclusive UX research—and that starts early!

2. What is the goal of UX research?

The goal of user research is to contextualize your design project. It assists you in understanding the problem you’re attempting to address; it informs you of who your consumers are, the context in which they’ll be utilizing your product or service, and, finally, what they want from you, the designer! UX research guarantees that you design with the user in mind, which is critical if you want to build a successful product.

Read more: What is UX design and why is it important for your business?

Your UX research will help you in a variety of ways throughout the design process. It will assist you in identifying difficulties and obstacles, validating or invalidating your assumptions, identifying trends and similarities among your target user groups, and shedding light on your users’ requirements, aspirations, and mental models.

What is the significance of this? Let us investigate.

Why is it critical to perform UX research?

Without UX research, your designs are fundamentally based on assumptions. It’s nearly hard to determine what demands and pain areas your design should solve unless you spend time engaging with real people.

Here are some of the reasons why performing user research is critical:

UX research may help you create better products!

There is a common misperception that it is acceptable to conduct a little amount of research and testing near the conclusion of a project. The fact is that UX research comes first, followed by usability testing and iteration.

This is because study improves the design. The ultimate objective is to develop products and services that people will desire to use. The adage in UX design is that some user research is always preferable to none. Convincing a client or your team to incorporate user research in a project is likely to be your first difficulty as a UX designer at some point in your career.

UX research keeps your design approach focused on user stories!

Too frequently, the user research phase is viewed as optional or even “good to have,” although it is critical from both a design and a business standpoint. This leads us to our next point…

UX research saves you both time and money!

If you (or your customer) opt to skip the research process entirely, you risk wasting time and money producing a product that, when released, has several usability difficulties and design defects, or simply does not answer a true user demand. UX research will help you identify such issues early on, saving you time, money, and a lot of frustration!

The research step guarantees that you are developing with genuine insights and facts rather than assumptions! Consider releasing a product that has the potential to fill a market gap but is riddled with faults and usability concerns owing to a lack of user research. At best, you’ll have a lot of extra work to do to get the output up to par. In the worst-case scenario, the brand’s reputation will suffer.

UX research provides a competitive advantage to a product. Research demonstrates how your product will operate in a real-world situation, revealing any flaws that must be resolved before you proceed with development.

UX research can be budget-friendly!

There are methods for doing speedier and less expensive user research, such as the Guerrilla research described later in this article (also handy if budget and time are an issue). In the long run, even a tiny amount of user research will save time and money.

The second difficulty is that organizations frequently believe they know their customers without conducting any research. You’d be shocked how often a client claims that user research is unnecessary since they know their users!

Bain, a prominent multinational management consulting business, conducted a poll in 2005 and discovered some shocking results. 80% of firms said they were the most knowledgeable about what they were providing. Only 8% of the customers of such firms agreed.

The survey may be outdated, but the premise and misconception remain.

In certain circumstances, firms actually know their clients, and past data may be available to use. However, ‘understanding the users’ frequently boils down to personal assumptions and judgments.

“It’s only natural to assume that everyone uses the Web the same way we do, and—like everyone else—we tend to think that our own behavior is much more orderly and sensible than it really is.” (Don’t Make Me Think ‘Revisited’, Steve Krug, 2014.) A must on every UX Designer’s bookshelf!

What we believe a user wants differs from what the user believes they desire. Without research, we make decisions for ourselves rather than for our target audience. To recap, the goal of user research is to assist us in designing to meet the real demands of the user rather than our own preconceptions about their wants.

UX research, in a nutshell, informs and expands the area of design options. It saves time and money, gives you a competitive advantage, and makes you a more effective, efficient, and user-centric designer.

3. How to Structure Your UX Research?

When preparing your user research, it’s a good idea to have a mix of both qualitative and quantitative data to draw from so you don’t run into problems with the value-action gap, which may make qualitative data inaccurate at times.

The value-action gap is a well-known psychological theory that states that individuals do not always do what they say they will do. It is also known as what people say vs. what people do.

More than 60% of those polled indicated they were “likely” or “very likely” to purchase a kitchen appliance during the next three months. Only 12% had done so after 8 months. Gerald Zaltman, How Customers Think, 2003.

When preparing your user research, you must do more than just conduct User Focus Groups—observation of your consumers is crucial. You must keep an eye on what your users do.

Part of being a successful user researcher is knowing how to ask the appropriate questions and gain unbiased answers from your users.

To do this, we must think like the user.

Put yourself in the shoes of your user, with no preconceived notions or assumptions about how it should function or what it should be. We need empathy (and strong listening skills) to enable you to notice and dispute assumptions about your consumers that you already believe you know.

Be prepared for some surprises!

4. When to employ various UX research approaches

Methods of Qualitative Research:

  • Guerrilla testing: Quick and low-cost testing methods such as street recordings, field observations, paper drawing assessments, or web tools for remote usability testing.
  • Interviews: One-on-one interviews in which the user is asked to explain their interactions, ideas, and feelings in regard to a product or service, or even the environment in which the product/service is used.
  • Group Discussion: Participatory groups that are guided through a conversation and activities to acquire data about a certain product or service. If you’ve ever watched Mad Men, you’ll recognize the ‘Ponds’ cold cream.
  • Field research: It entails going into the user’s surroundings and watching and taking notes (and photographs or videos if possible).
  • In-lab testing: The observation of users doing certain activities in a controlled setting. Users are frequently asked to express their activities, thoughts, and feelings aloud and are videotaped for subsequent examination.
  • Card sorting: A technique for better understanding Information Architecture and naming standards. Sorting enormous volumes of material into sensible groups for consumers may be quite useful.

Methods of Quantitative Research:

  • User surveys: These are organized questionnaires that target your unique user personas. These can be an excellent approach to collecting a vast number of data. Surveymonkey is a well-known internet tool.
  • Initial click testing: A test designed to determine which button a user would click on first in order to perform their desired job. This may be accomplished through the use of paper prototypes, interactive wireframes, or an existing website.
  • Eye tracking: Tracks the user’s gaze, allowing the observer to see what the user sees. Heatmapping is a nice cheaper alternative to this pricey test.
  • Heatmapping: It is a data visualization technique that shows how users click and scroll across your prototype or website. Crazyegg is the most well-known online tool for integration.
  • Web analytics: Data collected from a website or prototype with which it is connected, allowing you to observe user demographics, page views, and funnels of how people travel around your site and where they drop off. Google Analytics is the most well-known web tool to integrate.
  • A/B testing: is the process of comparing two versions of a web page to discover which one converts more people. This is an excellent tool to test button locations, colors, banners, and other UI components.