How to Conduct Effective UX Research?

Anna RubkiewiczJune 09, 20227 min

According to a report from Forrester, every dollar invested in UX brings $100 in return on average. This translates to a staggering 10,000% in Return on Investment (ROI). However, in order to ensure that your product’s UX is effective, you must prioritize thorough user experience research. This is an essential element of the UX process that allows you to find the true value of your products or services, and gauge whether or not they will sell in the real world.

In this article, we are going to take a closer look at user experience research, the various types, and the different methodologies that you can use to conduct these studies.

Improve user experience

Why Does UX Research Matter?

The product design process can be a challenging endeavor. However, extensive user experience research makes it easier by providing the necessary data required at each stage of the product design cycle. This allows you to validate your hypotheses and analyze your product against a backdrop of similar solutions on the market. Ux research also guides you through understanding end-user behaviors, as well as their expectations, goals, and challenges.

As aptly noticed by Toptal, “user experience research is one of the most misunderstood yet critical steps in UX design. Sometimes treated as an afterthought or an unaffordable luxury, UX research and user testing should inform every design decision.”

Now that we know the gist of it, let’s explore the different types of UX research in the following section.

Types of UX Research

UX research can be roughly divided into two different types – qualitative and quantitative. These research types gather data in contrasting ways. While qualitative studies are based on direct observations, quantitative studies gather numerical data – for instance, through online surveys.

Once combined, these two types of UX research can provide a great depiction of the wants and needs of each prospective customer, as well as what would make them a satisfied user.

Quantitative research method

This type of UX research quantifies or gathers measurable data. It offers precise, fixed figures and numbers to work with. As an example, it can show you how many users purchased your product via an e-commerce app or the percentage of visitors who added an item to their wish lists. Quantitative methods give you a number or statistic for usability benchmarking. Also, design solution comparisons can be made to determine which version outsmarts the others.

Qualitative research method

Qualitative UX research discovers the reasons behind quantitative actions taken by end-users. As an example, this would be a suitable method to employ for exploring scenarios like why a user added a certain item to their wish list instead of purchasing it or why they bounced from your website. While quantitative research methods produce data that is fixed in nature, data from qualitative feedback is more open-ended and descriptive.

It’s important to note that quantitative and qualitative user experience research should be conducted at every stage by your product managers, design team, and development team. Fortunately, different user research methods can aid in this process. Depending on the stage of the product development process, some methods might take precedence over others.

UX Research Methods – Which to Choose

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, UX research methods can be divided roughly into four stages: Discover, Explore, Learn, and Listen. Let’s look at each one in detail.

UX activities in the product & service design cycle

Stage 1 – Discover

In the ‘Discover’ stage, methods include:

  • Field studies - includes conducting studies about the user’s natural environment as opposed to in a restricted environment like a lab or office.
  • Stakeholder interviews - UX research at the discovery stage should mean that you involve stakeholder interviews, as they can provide detailed and valuable product information that will steer your product to success. Defining your goals and understanding the parameters, valuable insights, and assumptions that are set out before sharing designs with stakeholders is a crucial step.
  • User interviews - it is pertinent to interview the potential end-users of your product to get into their minds and learn how they would benefit from it. These user interviews are normally conducted during the ideation phase or early concept development. The interview questions are delivered via a structured methodology covering a variety of topics, and are generally recorded then systematically analyzed afterwards to extract the main points.
  • Competitive analysis - this is market analysis to compare and gather data about products and companies. To ensure that your product fills a genuine niche and will sell, it is very important to see what your competitors are up to. This method will bring to light any strengths or weaknesses of your intended products so that you can make smart decisions regarding your development strategy.

When are these methods used? The ideal time for this early-stage task is when you wish to discover target user needs, expectations, and problems, as well as when you are considering developing a product and need to validate your idea.

Stage 2 – Explore

The methods employed in the ‘Explore’ stage include:

  • User persona development - a user persona is like a fictional representation of your customer. The purpose of persona building is to create dependable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. Persona creation focus will build empathy with your target users, helping identify exactly what they need and why.
  • Task analysis - assign actions for the participants to take during your research study. Tasks provide context to user research processes so that they can engage with the design of products as they would do in a real life scenario.
  • Card sorting - this is a UX research method in which participants organize topics into categories in a way that makes sense to them. A Card sorting session can use actual cards, pieces of papers, or some kind of online card sort tool.

    Card sorting

    Source: Unsplash

  • User stories - these are scenarios that enable a product designer to empathize with the end-user and generate ideas to better their product for users in terms of how it fits into their life. User stories are full of minor details like activities and thoughts, and they can be presented via different media.

When are these methods used? The above are intended for exploring and validating prospective user paths, design rationale, and features before you invest your time and resources into developing the product.

Stage 3 – Learn

In the ‘Learn’ stage, UX research methods include:

  • Usability testing : - a behavioral user research method. One of the easiest ways to start with the usability testing method is to conduct session recordings, which allow you to replay and observe real actions performed by current users. They include mouse clicks or scrolling if you are looking for website usability issues, for example. Session recordings are a superb way of spotting major problems in your product and its functionalities. If you want to test the potential of user session recordings, you can try out LiveSession for free.
  • Benchmark tests - such studies allow you to test the progress over time of a website, app, or product and where it stands in comparison to its competitors, earlier versions, or industry benchmarks.
  • Accessibility tests - these allow you to check whether or not your software or product has a comfortable user flow for people with disabilities such as deafness, physical limitations, and even color blindness or age.

Stage 4 – Listen

In the fourth stage, among others, user researchers can apply the following methods:

  • Surveys & questionnaires - this type of user research analysis can be carried out by one-on-one interviews, over the phone, diary studies, or via an online survey tool. These questionnaires use both open-ended and closed questions to collect valuable data, not least about user satisfaction levels. This is very useful, as it ensures that both quantitative and qualitative data is obtained.
  • Bug report analysis - when you build new products, bugs are bound to occur. Some are relatively harmless and do not prevent task completion, but others can cause major interruptions and distractions. Iit is vital to eliminate those bugs before release as part of the product design process. Having your user design researchers create and analyze bug reports helps immensely in your user experience studies.
  • Analyzing FAQs - frequently asked questions that a real user would ask can guide you as to critical areas for improvement. Carefully assessing users’ FAQS is imperative when trying to improve your product and its UX design scope.
  • Analyzing search queries on-site - search logs and queries that can be found in Google Search Console are often overlooked, yet they contain important information. As an example, your on-site user queries can easily convey what people are searching for, how they phrase it, and when they look for it.

When are these methods used? For improving UX and adjusting the product to the changing demands of both users and the market over time.


UX research is an indispensable element of any UX process. It is applied across all stages of development by the product team – both in the early ideation phase and the design process, as well as after the initial launch. Effective UX research can be carried out through a variety of methods, and it helps you maximize profits and returns for your products and services.

Last, but not least, UX research allows you to validate your hypotheses and analyze your product against similar solutions, as well as guiding you through understanding your end-users’ expectations, goals, and challenges. Follow the methods discussed in this post, and you’ll be sure to ace your user experience research. Good luck.

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