Why Does UX Research Matter?
Before venturing into UX prototyping, it is worth explaining what a prototype is and what business benefits it brings. A prototype is an elementary design that has the potential to turn into the final product. It is a basic version of a product that enables you to conduct initial product testing and collect feedback from potential users.
Designing a product is a challenging endeavor. However, user experience research makes it easier by providing the necessary data required at each step of product design. It allows you to validate your hypothesis and analyze your product against a backdrop of similar solutions on the market. It also guides you in understanding the end user's 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 us explore the different types of UX research in the next section.
Types of UX Research
UX research can be roughly divided into two types – qualitative and quantitative. These research types gather data in a contrasting way. While qualitative studies are based on direct observations, quantitative studies gather numerical data – for instance, through online surveys.
Once combined, these two types can provide a great depiction of your customer's wants and needs.
This type of research quantifies or gathers measurable data. It offers precise and fixed figures and numbers to work with. As an example, it can show you how many users purchased your product via the e-commerce app or the percentage of visitors that added an item to their wish list. This method lets you put a number or statistic on the usability of your product. Also, design comparisons can be made to determine which version outsmarts the others.
Qualitative research discovers the reasons behind quantitative actions taken by end-users. As an example, scenarios like why a user added a certain item to a wish list instead of purchasing it, or why they bounced from your website can be explored via employing this method. While quantitative data is fixed in nature, qualitative data is more open-ended and descriptive.
It’s important to note that user experience research should be conducted at every stage of your product design and development. Fortunately, different research methods can aid in this process. Depending on the stage of development – some methods might take precedence over others.
UX Research Methods – When to Choose Which
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, UX research methods can be divided roughly into four stages. These are: Discover, Explore, Learn, and Listen.
Let us look at each method in detail.
Stage 1 – Discover
In the ‘Discover’ stage, methods include:
- Field studies: This method includes conducting studies about the user’s natural environment as opposed to a restricted environment like a lab or office.
- Stakeholder interviews: UX research at the discovery stage should involve the stakeholder interviews, as they can provide detailed and valuable product information and steer your product to success. Defining your goal and understanding the parameters, user insights, and assumptions set forth by the stakeholders is a crucial step.
- User interviews: It is pertinent to interview the potential end-users of your product or design to get into the mind of the users and see how they would benefit from your product. These 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. The interview is generally recorded and systematically analyzed after the conversation is over to extract the main points.
- Competitive analysis: This is a market analysis to compare and gather data about products and companies. To ensure that your product fills in 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 you can make smart decisions regarding your development strategy.
When are these methods used? These methods are applied when you wish to discover user needs, expectations, and problems. They are used 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 developing personas is to create dependable and realistic representations of your key audience segments for reference. Creating a user persona will build empathy with your target users and identify exactly what they need and why.
- Task assignments: These are the actions that you ask the participants to take during your research study. Tasks provide context to users so they can engage with the product as they would in real life.
Card sorting: This is a UX research method in which participants organize topics into categories in a way that makes sense to them. Card sorting can be done by using actual cards, pieces of papers, or any type of online card-sorting tool.
- User stories: User stories are scenarios that enable a product designer to empathize with the end-user and generate ideas to better their product that fits well into the user’s life. These stories are full of minor details like activities and thoughts and can be presented via different media.
When are these methods used? The above methods are used for exploring and validating potential user paths, designs, and product 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: One of the easiest ways to start with usability testing is to conduct session recordings. Session recordings allow you to replay and observe real actions performed by users such as mouse clicks or scrolling if you are conducting website usability testing 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: Benchmark studies allow you to test how a website, app, or product progresses over time and where it stands in comparison to competitors, earlier versions, or industry benchmarks.
- Accessibility tests: These tests allow you to check whether your software or product can be comfortably used by people with disabilities, like deafness, physical limitations, and even color blindness and age.
Stage 4 – Listen
In the fourth stage, among others, user experience researchers can apply the following methods:
- Surveys & questionnaires: This UX research method can be carried out face to face, over the phone, computer, or through a website. The questionnaire uses both open and closed-ended questions to collect data. It is very useful as it ensures that both quantitative and qualitative is obtained.
- Bug reports’ analysis: When you build new products, bugs are bound to happen. Some are relatively harmless and do not deter users from performing important tasks, but some can cause major interruptions and distractions. Before releasing your product, it is vital to eliminate those bugs. One thing that helps immensely in your user experience research efforts is creating and analyzing bug reports.
- Analyzing FAQs: Frequently asked questions from users can guide you as to critical improvement areas. Carefully assessing the frequently asked user questions is imperative when trying to improve your product and its UX design.
- Analyzing search queries on-site: Search logs and queries that can be found in Google Search Console are often overlooked, but they also contain important information. As an example, your on-site user queries can easily convey what the people are searching for, what do they call it, and how they look for it.
When are these methods used? These methods are used for improving UX and adjusting the product to users’ and the market’s changing needs over time.
UX research is an indispensable element of any UX process. It is applied across all stages of product development – both in the early ideation and design phases, as well as once it’s up and running. Conducting effective UX research can be performed across a variety of methods, and helps you maximize the profits and returns for your products and services. Last, but not least, it allows you to validate your hypothesis and analyze your product against similar solutions and guides you in understanding the end user's expectations, goals, and challenges. Follow the methods we discussed in this post, and you’ll be sure to ace your user experience research.