What Is User Experience (UX) Research?
User experience (UX) research is defined as the process used to survey, study, and identify user needs and preferences. The end goal of such a study is facilitate the design of better user-friendly digital products and features.
The underlying principle that fuels investment into user experience studies is that products that are more user centric and simple to use, despite the sophistication of ever-evolving technology and features, will have a greater market adoption edge than competitors.
Various tools and techniques are used to come up with different types of conclusions through different methodologies.
However, the goal remains the same – to arrive at facts that can be used to solve user experience design problems and ultimately lead to valuable insights that can lead to better user experience by enriching the design process.
The underlying principle in user experience research is to have a detailed understanding of how the end-users of a product or service think and behave and what their needs and emotions are while using the product.
All efforts made through user experience (UX) research are directed towards aligning the product design process to the perspective of actual end-users rather than designing just for assuming what is best. User experience research helps in the creation of user-centric design keeping in mind the end-users, their needs and motivations in the context of using the product, and streamlining the process for achieving a great user experience.
User Experience (UX) Research Process: 5 Key Steps
The user experience (UX) research process can be broken down into five steps, in which the first three steps are concerning the formulation and answering of questions that help the product designers know what kind of information they need in their user experience research.
The last two steps relate to knowledge gathering and application of the acquired knowledge in the design process for making a great product.
The five steps in the user experience research process are framing the objectives, arriving at the hypotheses, selection of the method, conducting the process of data accumulation and synthesizing the data gathered and understanding its implications in the design process. Let us explore each of these five steps in detail.
Step 1: Framing The Objectives
In the beginning, you need to be specific and clear about the objectives that you need to fulfill by conducting user experience research.
To achieve this, you need to fix the user segment for whom you are designing the product and determine their demographics and psychographics along with your baseline criteria on which you will select people for your research.
You also need to know what the current situation of the end-users are and their line of action in fulfilling their particular needs that you are aiming to fulfill through your product.
After this, you need to explore when your product may be used by the users and if there are any fixed routines or behaviors of the users that you need to know.
Beyond this, you need to establish the context in which users may be using your product.
For instance, do they use a particular technology or perform certain tasks for fulfilling their needs.
Moreover, you need to be clear about why people may use your product and the underlying emotional and rational causes that lead them to your product.
From there, zero in on the reasons why people may choose your product.
In the end, you need to figure out how people will use your product and what the user journey may look like while they use your product.
It’s imperative that you ensure that you are clear about the above-mentioned aspects for framing your objectives to make your user experience research effective.
Make sure to formulate a mix of tightly-scoped research objectives that are focused on specific tasks and goals while including a number of open-ended research objectives that can give insights about the user behavior, attitudes, and emotions.
Step 2: Arriving at the Hypothesis
Once the objectives of your user experience research have been established, you should now start thinking about your potential design process and their solutions as well as testing your assumptions that you may have framed about the problem at hand.
These may be in the form of your feelings and thinking regarding how the product needs to be designed. You must validate these ideas and assumptions by testing the hypotheses correctly in the initial stages of product design.
To validate these hypotheses, you need to externalize them to eliminate any bias that designers or clients may have regarding the product design.
Arriving at the hypothesis is an important step in the design process, as it helps you to select the right methods for fulfilling your research objectives.
The hypothesis that you have arrived at can be described as attitude-related hypotheses, behavior-related hypotheses, or feature-related hypotheses.
By generating these hypotheses, you are able to lay a solid foundation for the product design process by making the user experience research process methodical and structured.
Step 3: Select The Appropriate Method
Once the research objectives have been finalized and the hypothesis is finalized, you can now select the appropriate research methods that are most suited to fulfill your objectives.
A combination of two or more methods can be chosen for effective user experience research consisting of interviews, surveys, and exploration of market trends.
These methods are effective in letting you gain knowledge about your user base. You should also consider including methods like card sorting, paper prototyping, and other participatory design activities for getting deep insights regarding the user requirements.
By collaborating with your research participants and incorporating their feedback in the early stages of the product design process, you can validate your hypothesis and also generate potential design solutions that can be effective in enhancing user experience.
You should also include methods like usability testing, cognitive walkthroughs, and heuristic environments among others for refining your product design processes.
Through such methods, you get specific information about how users want to use a particular product and their preferences.
By constantly refining the methods that you choose for your user experience research through various iterations, you are able to visualize the best possible way to enhance the user experience by incorporating their preferences and needs.
Step 4: Accumulating Data
This is the stage in which you start implementing your user experience research by gathering the data through the methods selected.
You need to ensure that you conduct the research process methodically, capturing and analyzing each detail properly. While doing this, it is ok to deviate a bit by changing course or improvising for better implementation of the research process.
You need to realize that the main purpose of your user experience research exercise is to gain new insights about the end-users and the way their experience can be streamlined.
In addition, besides collecting user data, you need to analyze the data simultaneously, so that you are sure that the kind of data you are collecting is going to be effective in helping you to refine the product design process.
Step 5: Synthesis and Refining The Design Process
In the final stage of the user experience research process, you capture the knowledge that will help you to advance the product design process.
Through a rigorous analysis of the data gathered, you can find different patterns, meanings, and trends that will help you to fulfill the research objectives you had set at the beginning of this process.
By extracting the insights from the gathered data, you can synthesize the learnings by refining the product design, validating your hypotheses all whilst considering their impact on product design.
Such insights should also be used to guide your next course of action and for changing your process as needed.
5 Best Practices for User Experience (UX) Research in 2021
By understanding, in detail, the needs and wants of your end-users through user experience research, you can improve the usability of your product and make it easy and fun to use, thereby delivering great user experience.
This will also ensure the commercial viability of your product as well as help you to gain the confidence of all the stakeholders involved.
1. Achieve Objectivity By Eliminating Bias In Your Research
While conducting user experience research, we should be open-minded and unbiased, as this ensures that the perspective of end-users is considered and incorporated in the product design process.
While it is impossible to start any user experience research project without having any kind of preset ideas and expectations, we need to recognize them and ensure that such thoughts don’t cloud our approach while conducting the research as this may lead to various biases controlling the process.
To eliminate such a bias, we need to be systematic and analytical in comprehending the results of the user experience research and not view them through the prism of our preconceived ideas and notions.
Hence, we should be open-minded while conducting surveys and interviews of the targeted user groups and encouraging them to state their point of view instead of making them confirm your beliefs.
The same practice should be followed while conducting usability tests and you should not try to confirm the problems you think you have already identified in the user interface.
By encouraging the end-users to explore your product or questions without any limitations, you surely can get a different perspective leading to valuable feedback for improving your product.
2. Attach Maximum Importance To Research Done In Early Stages
You need to give maximum importance to the findings that are derived in the earliest stage of your user experience research as they tend to have the maximum impact on the product design.
Therefore, you should allot a majority of your budget and time to the early stages of user experience research, as it is better to gather valuable insights before the product is designed and further investments are committed.
However, it may be difficult to find the users and the challenges they face in such early stages, and this problem can be overcome by conducting ethnographic research which gives valuable insights about the people and their activities related to your research area.
This information helps you in confirming that you are on the right track and lets you design your product accordingly.
This kind of research, when conducted in the early stages of your product development, helps you save considerable time and resources in designing your product as per the expectations of the users.
3. Find The Right Interview Participants For Valuable Research Insights
You need to select the right participants for interviews you are conducting as a part of the user experience research.
This is important for getting the right kind of user feedback that will add value to their experience while using your product.
You should devote ample time and effort to find the interview participants and screen them properly and also offer them attractive incentives.
The screening process becomes more expensive and time-consuming if you limit the pool of your interview participants on the basis of their demography, profession, or geography.
Also, instead of studying your interview participants in person, you should focus on an online medium, like surveys, as it is more flexible and efficient for finding participants with particular attributes.
For screening interviewees participating in your interviews, you should select individuals that share the pain points your product is attempting to solve.
This can be done by asking them relevant questions and you should also communicate any technical requirements that you may have before interviewing them.
In addition, you should look for participants who are more detail-oriented and expressive while answering your interview questions, as it helps to get valuable feedback.
4. Choose Your User Experience Research Methods Wisely
You should choose the most appropriate methods for your user experience research as it is essential for getting the most valuable insights.
Hence, you should consider attitudinal research that explores the mindset of the users and how they think their behavior may be in a particular context.
On the other hand, you should also consider the behavioral research, which documents the actual behavior of the users and thus clearly distinguish between what people say and what they actually do.
These types of qualitative research methods will give you deep insights into the user behavior and you can reinforce these findings
On top of this, by employing quantitative research methods, you will collect an ample amount of required numbers and statistics to validate your findings.
You should also consider whether your research participants are using your product in a natural or near-natural manner, whether the use of the product is scripted, or if it’s a mixture of both.
Therefore, it is advisable not to rush your user experience research process and consider the methods you are using carefully so that they are most effective in delivering valuable insights.
5. Share Your Research Findings Effectively
While it is important to conduct user experience research for knowing your target audience, it is equally important to effectively communicate your research findings to the key stakeholders, which also includes designers, developers, and product managers in order to derive the maximum value from your findings.
The analysis and conclusions that are derived by conducting user experience research should be properly presented to the stakeholders involved in the product design so that they have a proper understanding of the findings, based on which future course of action is determined.
Also, the type of presentation and the way you communicate your findings may differ as per the type of stakeholders.
High-level executives may just require a summary of the research findings, but designers or developers may require a detailed presentation.
In addition, you should be ready to support your findings with facts and figures derived from your research so that your findings are justified and convincing for others.