UX design is user-centric. If you don’t already know, the only way to know what users truly need and want is through user research. When a UX designer sticks to gut feelings and guesswork, they threaten usability and miss opportunities. Behind every great UI and UX design, it is the research that keeps the design usable, relevant and drives ROI. Also, a study suggests that when User experience research is carried on throughout the design process, it can result in up to 50% reduction in the development cycles.
But, what is UX research? What are the methods available? Let’s find out.
What is user experience research?
UX research is simply a representation of the insights that have been gathered from customers and users. These insights are leveraged by UX designers to make informed decisions at any stage of the design & development process of an app/website. In a nutshell, UX research involves a continuous process of asking questions and gathering evidence. It allows designers and developers to create human-centered, intuitive experiences.
Benefits of UX research:
- The ability to make better, informed product decisions based on the data gathered from users, which helps in mitigating and reducing risks of designing the wrong app or building the wrong website. Research is key to decrease the go-to-market time for any business.
- Helps UX designers in testing, as well as, validating ideas early on and they don’t have to wait till the launch day to get feedback.
- Helps in removing bias from the UX design process and enables designers to work with concrete data rising from users who will be using the app/website.
Popular research methods to consider
There is a wide range of user experience research methods at your disposal. However, the ones that you are going to use will depend on the stage where you’re at in the design process. That said, here are some of the popular UX research methods and a brief overview of their usage.
1. Usability testing
Usability testing is utilized to identify opportunities and problems, make informed design choices and test the usability of the app/website throughout the design & development process. Moreover, you can run usability testing either during the design process or/and post-design. This test helps UX designers learn why users cannot complete particular tasks. And, what they can do to upgrade the app’s usability.
To conduct usability testing, you need to have defined goals, observe users when they are completing tasks and analyze the results for gathering insight.
2. Contextual inquiries
Contextual inquiries refer to field studies where participants are observed by UX researchers as they use the app/website in their usual environment. This helps in providing insight into reasoning and user behavior. Researchers might play an active or passive role during the study.
Contextual inquiries differ from usability tests. In this method, participants use the products in a way that they normally do without the researcher defining any particular task for them. You should conduct this research only in the post-design process.
3. Competitive analysis
You should conduct competitive analysis during the pre-design stage to gain insight into competitors regarding their strengths, weaknesses, features, process, and USP. This helps UX designers in creating a much better and superior app that stands out from the rest. For conducting a competitive analysis, you need to make a list of your top 5 competitors, decide on comparison criteria and gather data on those criteria. You need to analyze the data collected and make decisions accordingly.
4. Accessibility testing
Conduct accessibility testing to uncover usability problems for the disabled such as the visually impaired and hard of hearing. Apps, websites, and other digital products should accommodate all types of users. Accounting for disabled users refers to factors like, writing alt text for the deaf or designing for the colorblind. You must conduct this test before the usability test on the general target audience.
5. Persona building
You should start persona building at the beginning of the design process. It is about creating fictional characters that represent the segments of your user base. A complete persona includes the goals, needs, and motivations of the target audience. UX designers make use of these characters to create an empathetic and effective design.
We created the above user persona for one of the clients. When you are creating a persona, make sure that it includes demographics, a name, problems, responsibilities, goals, environment, hobbies, and devices used.
A prototype is a tangible model or a visual representation of an app. It allows stakeholders and users to give their feedback. From sketches to digital models, you can opt for either low-fidelity or high-fidelity prototypes. The option that you choose will result in your prototype looking engaging and realistic or give a vague idea of what you are trying to showcase.
It is important to create a functioning prototype. It ensures errors and flaws can be rectified before the full-on development stage.
Quantitative V/s qualitative UX research
User experience research is a multi-dimensional process and it includes various techniques and methods. The two most common approach to UX research is quantitative and qualitative UX research.
- Quantitative UX research is about gathering and assessing numerical data, making predictions, identifying patterns, and generalizing findings regarding the target audience. This data is indirectly collected through Google Analytics and such other tool that automatically records user data or by measuring UX metrics. Usability testing, A/B testing, and online surveys are the most popular quantitative data sources. And, this data provides the base for ROI calculations and benchmarking.
- Qualitative user experience research helps in the collection of qualitative data through user interviews where participants are observed directly. The data gathered yields an understanding of the thoughts, motivations, and attitudes of the users. It helps in uncovering the ‘why’ behind every action and can be conducted throughout the development process.
UX designers can arrive at the right decision regarding the design and development of an app by combining both qualitative and quantitative data. Both these approaches reinforce each other and also helps in triangulating the research results.