The Complete Guide to UX Research Methods
User experience is at the core of every business decision. Whether conducting user research or using insights to design a mobile app or website, the proper UX research method will help you make better business decisions backed by data.
Let's take a look at some of the most common methods used in UX research:
- Surveys and questionnaires
- Contextual inquiries and shadowing (participation observation)
- User interviews (one-on-one interviews with users)
- Usability testing (One-to-many tests where users try out a product or service while being recorded on video; also called heuristic evaluation)
Think of your favourite digital tool. Maybe it's Google Maps, Slack or Instagram. You might have never considered why you use that tool, but it probably solves your problem. The creators of these products spent much time conducting user research to understand how to make their interface easy, intuitive and (most importantly) solve a problem for their users. This is the core of all user research—understanding what drives your users to solve problems and designing a seamless and intuitive experience.
User research is a core part of the product development process. It helps you understand what drives your users to solve problems and design an intuitive experience. User research tools also help you make better business decisions, allowing you to identify any potential roadblocks that might prevent users from adopting or using your product.
Before diving into user research methods, let's take a few minutes and look at why they're essential in the first place.
This guide will take you through the basics of UX Research, from identifying which method fits your particular needs, running user interviews, analysing your findings and finally sharing results with key stakeholders. In this guide, we'll cover the following:
Let's cover some basics: why UX research is essential, the most common UX research methods and how to identify which fits your needs. The field of UX has proliferated in recent years to encompass an array of different approaches. Still, at its core, it's all about understanding users so that you can create better digital products. Whether creating a new website or app from scratch or redesigning an existing one, conducting user research will help ensure you build something people want and use regularly.
Depending on where you're at in your product development lifecycle, there are several different types of user testing available to you. These include usability tests and interviews (both remote and face-to-face), as well as surveys and card sorts—and each method can help uncover different insights into how people interact with websites or apps.
Why conduct UX Research?
The answer to this question is pretty simple. You need to conduct UX research because it helps you create better products, services, and user experiences.
When done correctly, UX research can help you build easier and more engaging products for your users. It also helps you uncover ways of improving existing products or services for users by gaining insight into their needs and motivations through research projects such as user interviews or usability testing sessions.
The benefits of conducting UX research include the following:
- Improved understanding of your target audience's needs so that you can build a product tailored specifically to their requirements
- Early validation of ideas before investing time and money into development
Define your target customer.
As a UX researcher, you need to understand that while the target customer is essential, there is no single universal definition of this concept. For example, suppose you are conducting a study with people who use public transportation daily. In that case, your definition of the target customer will be different than if you were researching with someone who only uses public transportation occasionally.
Look for common characteristics.
- Look for common characteristics. If you are working on a product intended to be used by a specific group of people (for example, a car-sharing app), looking for participants who resemble your target customer will make sense. If you are working on an app that anyone with an iPhone could use, look for people who have iPhones and are willing to participate in usability research sessions.
- Look for differences. When looking at different types of participants, try to identify what they have in common and what separates them from other groups or individuals that might also be useful in your research study. For example, if you're testing two different versions of your website design with two sets of users—one set based in Europe and one based in North America—you may want to compare their feedback on specific features (such as layout) rather than just collecting their overall opinions about the sites themselves since both sets would probably use those features differently due to cultural differences between the groups being studied (ease of navigation vs quick access).
Next, you'll want to create a detailed screener. A screener is a form that potential participants fill out before being invited to the study. It should be relevant to the study and easy for participants to complete (so make it short!). Screens include questions about demographics, such as age or gender; specific details about the product or service being tested (e.g., “How often do you use Uber?”); any relevant experience with the brand or topic in question; whether they have heard of any similar concepts; their level of interest in participating.
The more specific your screener is, the better it will help you understand who might be best for this particular project and what they need—which helps when making decisions later on during the recruitment and testing phases!
Choose a recruiting method that suits your needs and budget.
Recruit Participants for A Study: A good UX researcher is thorough, meticulous and thoughtful about recruiting the most suitable participants for their research. Whether you're conducting qualitative or quantitative user research, finding the right participants for your needs can be difficult. Many methods can help you do this.
Recruiting participants will vary depending on your method: online focus groups may be free while hiring someone from a social network as an interview moderator could cost hundreds of dollars per day. Before proceeding, you should consider carefully which method is best for your project and budget.
When choosing a recruitment method, make sure it meets your research goals by thinking about three things:
- Cost: How much money do I have available? Does this option meet my budget constraints? Are there hidden costs associated with using this approach? What would happen if we couldn't afford our chosen approach?
- Speed: How quickly can I get started with this approach? Do they need to make prior arrangements (e.g., booking meeting rooms)?
- Accessibility: Can everyone in my team access this tool quickly (e.g., everyone has computer access)? Will anyone, in particular, need special training so they know how best to use it effectively (e.g. remote moderators)?
How do you identify the proper UX research method for your specific needs (i.e., what questions do you need to answer?)
To identify the correct UX research method for your specific needs (i.e. what questions do you need to be answered?), it's essential first to understand the problem you're trying to solve (e.g., understanding whether users prefer one design over another) and then identify who will be using your product or service (e.g., millennials, moms). Next, consider what business goals you are trying to achieve with this product or service. Finally, think about which aspects of the user experience (UX) need improving most urgently:
- User experience: Do users find it easy or hard to complete tasks? How satisfied are they with their interactions with a website/app? What would make them more satisfied?
- Usability: Can users navigate through all sections of a website/app easily? Can people understand how things work when looking at them for the first time? Do they know where you can find things like support and privacy policies easily on a website; if not, then these areas should be redesigned accordingly so that users can find them quickly without having any confusion about where you might find these critical pieces of information within the site's navigation scheme?
- Accessibility: How accessible is this site/app across different platforms (mobile devices vs desktop vs tablet); does it meet WCAG guidelines for colour contrast levels between text elements against backgrounds and font sizes being readable by people with low vision issues?
What tools do you need to get started?
You may be wondering what tools you need to get started. This section will give you an overview of the most popular research methods and their accompanying tools.
For user interviews and usability tests: These are usually conducted in a one-on-one setting where you talk with users about their needs, behaviours and expectations regarding your product or service. You can either record the conversation using audio recording software like Zoom or write down important points on paper while the interview is happening (often referred to as “narrative note taking”).
Some tools allow you to easily share files or notes with other team members and stakeholders through cloud services such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc., so everyone can access them anytime from any device. These are examples of tools that we use regularly:
- Zoom – Video calling platform used for remote interviews with multiple participants.
- Slack – Team collaboration application used among UX researchers within our company.
To conduct user research, knowing how to find participants is essential. You've probably heard this before, but your results will be better with more information about your target customer.
The best way to do this is by creating a detailed screener that will help filter applicants who are most likely fit for participation in your study. Then you can decide which recruiting method will suit your needs and budget (in-person recruitment may not be an option if budgets are tight).