What Is UX Research?

What Is UX Research?

UX (user experience) research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements, to add realistic contexts and insights to design processes. UX research is conducted in two main steps — gathering data and then synthesizing that data.

What is UX Research?

It is used to understand the intended users like knowing:

  • What are their requirements on a day-to-day basis?
  • What do they think of a particular interface?
  • How do they behave while interacting with a certain design?
  • How does a product impact their lives?

Traditional UX research involved studying user interactions to help with the design of products. However, the purpose of UX research has evolved over the years. It is now viewed as a larger strategic initiative that extends from understanding the diverse cultural background of the users to making it favorable for a company’s business and brand personality.

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Image from UX Research vs. Market Research

User research is implemented to enhance usability of products that ultimately brings enriched experience to users by putting into consideration all possible factors related with them like:

  1. Psychology
  2. Culture & demographics
  3. Goals
  4. Likes/dislikes
  5. Work status
  6. Lifestyle

UX research is conducted in two main steps — gathering data and then synthesizing that data. Although this doesn’t immediately offer a solution, it does inform and educate us enough to explore feasible ideas.

Numerous methods are employed by a researcher to unravel the needs of the users through observation techniques, task analysis and feedback methodologies. Most of these have been borrowed from academics, scientists, and others but there are still a few of them that are fairly unique to the UX world.

Why is it important?

  • A UX design process is incomplete without a thorough research. In fact, it is sort of the initial stage that leads the entire process.
  • Everything is about the users. There’s a reason why the phrase “Design for Delight” is used. Users’ insights are extremely necessary for a great user experience.

A lot of planning and execution is essential for user research and therefore, a design process takes a good amount of time. Sometimes, it may seem like we already know enough about our users for whom a product is being build and so why to spend so much time on research. However, neglecting it can be disadvantageous for the company because we tend to create false assumptions about the users.

Possible outcomes can be:

  • Product confuses the user
  • Product has great features but doesn’t solve user’s problem

When should it be conducted?

Earlier UX research was conducted only when a company faced an issue. For example — users’ home page visit dropped off at an unusually high rate. Researchers would then look into the issue and resolve it. So, user research was conducted to help solve a problem that was already known.

The times are changing quickly. These days UX research is carried out as a beginning step towards design. It comes first because without it, our work would only be based on our own experiences, which is not objective. Having said that, UX research should be carried out parallelly throughout the design life cycle.

The value that users’ insights provide to a company has led UX research to be embedded in everyday process of design, marketing and even corporate strategy. What was once just a problem-solving mindset has evolved to combine the perspective of figuring out what problems to solve, as well.

How should it be conducted?

The first and foremost thing to do before one begins is to generate a study design. This will help us to know our research goal or objective.

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Erin Sanders at Frog

Set of criteria to approach user research:

  1. Formulate appropriate research questions — avoid leading questions
  2. Build follow-up questions and try to ask them from multiple angles
  3. Be focused on the research goal while asking questions
  4. Try to build up a conversation
  5. Spend extra effort on participant recruitment — invite diverse set of participants
  6. Be empathetic and embrace silence
  7. Ask permission wherever necessary
  8. Summarize or even better quote the response

Of all these, wording questions is very important. Our (users) brain tends to take shortcuts which eventually causes us (researchers) to miss out on opportunities. For example: If someone asks me about my daily morning routine, I might end up giving a general reply like “I wake up around 8–9 am. I freshen up and have my breakfast.” But if someone asks me what was my morning like yesterday? I might end up answering with more specifications rather than generalization like “I woke up at 8:30 am. I had my morning coffee. I freshened up by 9:30 am and then I had eggs in my breakfast.” So, framing questions carefully can create wonders.

After we enlighten ourselves with these little yet powerful approaches, we can go ahead and choose a specific research method.

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