Skip to main content

As a UX designer, it’s your job to put the user front-and-center in everything you do.

UX Research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation and feedback. The goal of user experience research is to prioritize the user. Also want to make sure business needs are met. UX research can help bridge the gap between what a business thinks the user needs and what the user actually needs, before an expensive and time-consuming product is made. 

Product Development Life Cycle is the process used to take a product from an idea to reality. It has five stages — Brainstorm, Define, Design, Test, and Launch — that take an idea for an app, website, or product to its launch. 

By observing users and collecting feedback, UX researchers can better understand user behaviours, needs, and motivations.

Foundational Research (Strategic or Generative Research): The goal of foundational research is to help define the problem you would like to design a solution for. It is always done before you start designing and during the brainstorm stage (stage one) to help you empathize with users, understand their needs, and inspire new design directions. Your goal is to figure out what the user needs and how to address those needs with your product. Many of the research methods for conducting foundational research are based on observations.

  • What should we build?
  • What are the user problems?
  • How can we solve them?
  • Am I aware of my own biases, and am I able to filter them as I do research?

Design Research (Tactical Research): The goal is to inform how the product should be built. It happens during the design stage (stage three) to help inform your designs, to fit the needs of users, and to reduce risk. Each time you create a new version of your design, new research should be done to evaluate what works well and what needs to be changed. The most common method used to conduct design research is a Usability Study, which is a technique to evaluate a product by testing it on users. The goal of usability studies is to identify pain points that the user experiences with your prototypes, so the issues can be fixed before the product launches.

  • How should we build it?
  • Design research questions from user
  • How was your experience using the prototype today?
  • How easy or difficult was it to use? Why? 
  • Did you encounter any challenges? 

Post-Launch Research: it can be used to evaluate how well a launch feature is meeting the needs of users. The goal of post-launch research is to understand how users experienced the product and whether it was a good or poor user experience. (might also want to check your product’s performance against the competition.) It happens after the launch stage (stage five) to help validate that the product is meeting user needs through established metrics. This research will tell you how your final product is performing based on established metrics, such as adoption, usage, user satisfaction, and more. 

  • Did we succeed?

Qualities of a Good UX Researcher include empathy, pragmatism, and collaboration. 

Empathy is the ability to understand someone else’s feelings or thoughts in a situation. 

Pragmatism is a practical approach to problem-solving. Pragmatic people are focused on reaching goals. 

Collaboration is the ability to work with a range of people, personalities, and work styles. 

There are two key parts to every UX design project: Conducting research to learn about the users you’re designing for and gathering feedback about their perspectives. UX design is all about putting the user first, and research helps designers understand those users. 

Foundational Research Methods:

  • Interviews: A research method used to collect in-depth information on people’s opinions, thoughts, experiences, and feelings. 
  • Surveys: An activity where many people are asked the same questions in order to understand what most people think about a product.
  • Focus Groups: A small group of people whose reactions are studied. For example, your focus group might bring together eight users to discuss their perspectives about new features in your design. A focus group is usually run by a moderator who guides the group on a certain topic of conversation. 
  • Competitive Audit: An overview of your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. 
  • Field Studies: Research activities that take place in the user’s context or personal environment, rather than in an office or lab. 
  • Diary Studies: A research method used to collect qualitative data about user behaviors, activities, and experiences over time. Often, a user will log, or diary, about their daily activities and provide information about their behaviors and needs, which can help inform your designs. 

Design Research Methods:

  • A/B Testing: A research method that evaluates and compares two different aspects of a product to discover which of them is most effective. 
  • Cafe or Guerrilla Studies: A research method where user feedback is gathered by taking a design or prototype into the public domain and asking passersby for their thoughts. For example, you might sit in a local coffee shop and ask customers if they would be willing to test your app design for a couple of minutes and provide feedback. 
  • Card Sorting: A research method that instructs study participants to sort individual labels written on notecards into categories that make sense to them. This type of research is largely used to figure out the information architecture of your project
  • Intercepts: A research method that gathers on-site feedback from users as they engage in the activities being researched. Intercepts are often conducted in the field, so this type of research is often considered a subset of field research. An intercept study can provide quick, high-level feedback.

Post-Launch Research Methods:

  • A/B testing
  • Usability Studies
  • Surveys
  • Logs Analysis: A research method used to evaluate recordings of users while they interact with your design, tools, etc. 

The term methods refers to how you get the research done. The research method we choose is decided by the question we are trying to answer. 

Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of each method, and when to use each, can make your research more effective and can improve your product’s design.

Research Methods Categories:

  • Based on who conducts the research. (Primary research & Secondary research)
  • Based on the type of data collected. Data can be collected through qualitative or quantitative research.

Primary Research is research you conduct yourself.

Secondary Research is research that uses information someone else has put together. Can be information from books, articles, or journals. Secondary research is done at the very beginning of the product development lifecycle, before any ideation happens. Secondary research is often done by product leads, not UX designers. It can be completed at any phase of the project, since you’re using information from outside sources. Lay a foundation for your primary research, so you have a better idea of where to focus your efforts. Supplement the findings from your primary research for a project, to reiterate or strengthen your conclusions. 

  • Benefits:
    • Save your team time and money. (why redo work that’s already been done?)
    • Immediately accessible.
    • You can often find secondary research via online searches and subscription research publications.
    • Back up your primary research
  • Drawbacks
    • No first-hand user interaction (it doesn’t allow you to observe users interacting with your app). 
    • Will not have feedback on how users feel about your product.
    • Can be misleading and generalizing if not done appropriately. 

Quantitative Research focuses on data that can be gathered by counting or measuring and is often based on surveys of large groups of people using numerical answers. If you want to know how the majority of users are experiencing a product, you should use quantitative research.

  • How many? 
  • How much?

Qualitative Research focuses on observations and is often based on interviews, where we focus on a smaller number of users and understand their needs in greater detail. Why users are having a bad experience with your product and how to improve it, you should use qualitative research.

  • Why? 
  • How did this happen?

Quantitative research gives you the “what” and qualitative research gives you the “why.”

Common Research Methods:

  • Interviews are research methods used to collect in-depth information on people’s opinions, thoughts, experiences, and feelings. usually conducted in person and include a series of open-ended questions and questions require a detailed response.
    • Benefits
      • Allow you to understand what users think and why
      • You can adjust your questions or refocus the discussion based on the user’s answers.
      • Ask follow-up questions and really understand the user’s experience in real time
      • You have the ability to ask questions specific to a user’s needs.
      • You’ll receive direct suggestions from the user. 
    • Drawbacks
      • Takes a lot of time and money. It’s expensive to pay participants and to rent space for the interviews.
      • Small sample size, which can be risky when launching a brand new product. Due to time and money constraints.
      • Group interviews can be affected by the bandwagon effect, or going along with the group’s opinion instead of thinking creatively, which can discourage open discussion by people who have an opinion that doesn’t align with the majority of the group. 
  • Surveys are an activity where many people are asked the same questions in order to understand what most people think about a product. From a larger number of users, include a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions. They are most useful after you have some initial understanding of the users’ pain points and want to solidify that by surveying a larger number of people.
    • You can design surveys to include open-ended questions for qualitative research, which allow research participants to clarify their survey responses, as well as close-ended questions for quantitative research, which generate numerical data. 
    • Benefits
      • Allow us to get feedback from a larger sample size of users. 
      • Fast (You are able to gather results and insights quickly.)
      • Inexpensive (they don’t take as much time for participants to complete, and they can be done remotely)
    • Drawbacks
      • Feedback from users is limited. Survey questions don’t allow for in-depth feedback. Most questions will have responses drawn from a set of multiple-choice answers. 
      • There are some types of research questions that won’t work in a survey format.
      • Surveys usually do not allow for personalization.
  • Usability Studies are a technique that help us evaluate a product by testing it on users. The goal of a usability study is to identify pain points that the user experiences with different prototypes, so the issues can be fixed before the final product launches. It helps demonstrate if a product is on the right track or if the design needs to be adjusted. Record your usability sessions, either audio or video, so you can reference the user data as you make design decisions later on in the process.
    • A critical part of conducting usability studies is observing how participants interact with the product you’ve designed. Focusing on qualitative research during usability studies can generate more personal insights by assessing the behaviour of users as they experience the product. Quantitative research can also be used when conducting usability studies to understand participants’ impressions of the product.
    • A post-launch usability study might include data like success metrics and key performance indicators, which are commonly known as KPIs.
    • Benefits
      • Allow us to observe first-hand user interaction and observation with our product.
      • Challenge our assumptions: by demonstrating a completely different result than you were expecting. 
      • Let the user give in-depth feedback.
    • Drawbacks
      • They only measure one thing: how easy the product is to use.
      • They are expensive, because you have to bring users into a lab and reimburse them for their time.
      • How a user interacts with your product in a lab environment is different than how they will actually use it in real life.

Key performance indicators are critical measures of progress toward an end goal. 

  • How much time the user spent on a task or the number of clicks they used to make a purchase.

The data you collect forms the basis of your design decisions.

A qualitative research method includes open-ended questions that require participants to explain their answers by providing more details. 

A quantitative research method includes only close-ended questions, like questions that require only “yes” or “no” responses or set multiple choice questions. 

Best practice is to conduct at least five user interviews during your research. As you conduct your interviews, you’ll start to find similarities in the feedback that users provide about what works and what doesn’t work about your product. This is exactly the kind of feedback you want! 

Mohammad Rahighi

Mohammad Rahighi

Designer and Project Manager who loves crafting big ideas and is passionate about designing meaningful experiences that can influence positive change and help make the world a better place.

Leave a Reply