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UX Research Methods: The Ultimate Guide

Kate William

9 min read

UX research methods are primarily used to better understand the needs and goals of your users so you can design a product that serves them better.

Without knowing your users’ real problems and needs, you will fail to design a product or solution that they really want.

Understanding your users’ preferences and goals on a deeper level helps you design an experience that they will truly enjoy and appreciate.

In this article, we’ll look at what UX research is, some of its top benefits, how to create a solid UX research plan, and the top UX research methods.

What is UX research?

UX research is the process of understanding the motivations, needs, behaviors, etc., of your customers with the help of observation, feedback collection, gathering, and so on.

By doing so, you will be able to add relevant contexts and insights for you to create effective processes. It can be considered as a combination of observation, task analysis, and feedback methodologies.

Benefits of UX research

1. Achieve product-market fit

When you create a product that is built on user research methods, you are in a position to achieve product-market fit. Why? Because you would have researched already on how your product can adapt to the needs of the market. By talking to prospective customers, observing them, and iterating, you will find the right combination to achieve product-market fit.

2. Usability & Accessibility

The usability of your product has a direct impact on how users engage with your product and the kind of conversions that it can bring about. With the help of UX research methods, you will be able to understand the various limitations that the product might have and put yourself in a position to increase the user experience.

3. Increase your chances for success

When you have an in-depth understanding of your users, you will be able to predict their choices better. The products that you create will be those that are enjoyable for your target market. Thanks to the extensive use of UX research methods, you can identify the early adopters, understand how your product fares in front of your competitors, and even add features that others might have overlooked.

4. Reduce unnecessary spending

When you know what your customers want, you wouldn’t be working on models that do not give you the best ROI. UX research is a great way for you to have a clear vision of the product. It will prevent you from making mistakes that should have been avoided in the first place. By not doing all of this, you will end up saving your business a lot of time.

5. React swiftly to market changes

When you have a firm grip on what your customers want from you, you will be better prepared to face the ever-changing market scenarios. While a pandemic might not be something that could have allowed for any kind of preparation, you will be better positioned to make swifter changes in most situations.

6. Faster go-to-market

The UX research phase is usually considered as an ornamental addition, but if done right, you will have a much swifter development process. How? Thanks to a clear idea of what you want and the fact that you know a lot about your product, you will be able to avoid a lot of changes to your product.

7. Prioritize features

With the help of UX research methodologies such as prioritizing and story mapping, you will know in advance about the kind of functionalities that you plan to employ during each stage of the development process. All of this will reduce the risk involved as well as reduce the cost of your product development.

How to create a UX research plan

1. Define the pain point

In a UX research plan, the first step is to identify what you would like to do with the research and identify the areas where there are issues. There are different methods to arrive at the pain point. You can check out the data that already exists and see if there is something that puts off your customers or your team members.

The pain point that you arrive at should provide enough information about what the project is about and pass along any information that will add to understanding it.

2. Have clear objectives

Once you have identified the pain points, the next step is to think about the objectives for doing the UX research. You need to know what you are doing, why you plan to do that, and what can be expected from the entire process. It is imperative that you set clear goals as it will help you define the scope of the entire exercise. When you are doing research, you need to be clear about the quantum of work that is expected of you.

Here are a few questions that you could use to streamline the research objectives:

Who are the people we are designing the product for?

How do these people benefit from the product?

What are the pain points they have while using the product?

How do you plan to use the results from this exercise?

What are the decisions that we are going to make based on the results?

By getting answers to the above questions, they will be able to identify the areas that require research and it makes everyone’s job easier.

3. Using the right UX research methods

The kind of UX research method that you choose depends on the goals that you have set for yourself, the design stage that you are currently in, the resources that you have set aside for this, the timeline, and other constraints.

For example, if you want to see how a new design is performing, you might want to perform usability tests to see the performance. If you want to know the preferences of your customers about certain features, you can use online surveys.

No matter what research method you use, make sure that it helps you reach the objectives that you have set for yourself.

4. Add participants

For your UX research plan, you should add information about the participants who are going to be a part of it. You should consider all the other resources that are available at your disposal. When you are selecting participants for the research, make sure that all of them are a part of your customer persona. Otherwise, the results that you get will be inconsistent with what you really should have found.

5. Prepare the UX research guide

The next part of this process is to create a guide that can be used for the various UX design research methods that you will employ. It can be used as a guide that will remind the stakeholders about the kind of questions that should be posed and to make sure that everything is on track.

6. Determine the timeline

You need to have a clear-cut timeline that will help you estimate the project. It is one of the most important steps in your UX research plan. The stakeholders should know when the project will be underway and at what time the findings can be expected to be shared. It will help you have a handle on the proceedings and prepare for further action.

7. Sharing the findings

At this stage, you would have had the findings with you. How do you plan to present the findings to the stakeholders? Do remember that the findings need to be presented to the right people which will help them implement it across the organization.

Top UX Research Methods

After creating the user research plan, the next step is to choose the right UX research method. We will speak about how to choose your methods of UX research based on your project’s goals so that you can get the right insights. There are different types of UX research methods to choose from.

Let us look at some of the most common UX research methods:

1. Field Studies

Research activities that take place in the user’s environment are called field studies. They provide a lot of insights because it is contextually perfect. Since the people are observed in their natural work environment, you will be able to weed out a lot of errors that would have otherwise occurred if you were using any other method.

Field studies will help you understand the context in which users complete tasks, understand their needs, gather user stories, etc. It will help the researcher understand the point of view of the user, what are the various issues that they face in their environment, problems that are beyond their control, and so on.

2. Discovery Research

These types of UX research techniques are usually employed when you do not have a product or even a prototype. At this stage, you invest time in learning about the market for the product that you are building, understand more about the potential users, see how you can build a product that the users will love.

3. User Interviews

It is a simple user experience research method that helps you gather information by having casual conversations with your users. It has the ability to provide valuable qualitative data. The results of your user interviews entirely depend on the person who is taking the interview. The person should be able to ask the correct questions on specific topics so that you can get as much information as possible from the participants.

Apart from having a thorough knowledge of the product, the interviewer should also be someone who knows how to be empathetic in such a way that they can gather information from the interviewees without much difficulty.

4. Tree Testing

It is a research method that helps you evaluate the hierarchy and findability of topics in a website or an app. When you collect data from a tree test, it will help you find how users navigate on your app or website naturally and provide a way to assess the findability and information architecture of the app.

5. Online surveys

Surveys are an incredibly effective way to gather customer information. With the help of online surveys, you can gather qualitative as well as quantitative information. You will be able to derive insights which you would get from qualitative UX research methods and quantitative research methods. Make sure to include both open-ended and closed-ended questions in your survey. It is pivotal that you draft the right questions, otherwise, you will not be able to gather good insights. Choosing the right online survey tool is also something that you need to take proper measures for.

If you do not ask the right questions, you will not be able to gather deep insights that can affect your UX. Avoid questions that lead the survey taker into responding in a particular way. An online survey tool such as SurveySparrow will help you gather rare insights, thanks to the variety of features that it has to offer, not to mention the simplicity with which you can create online surveys.

6. Usability Testing

In this, you ask your users to evaluate your product by making them complete a set of tasks where you observe and take notes of the interactions. While there is a myriad of usability testing methods, the one that you choose should be based on the UX research goals that you have. With usability testing, you can figure out if your design is easy to use and intuitive.

7. Five-second testing

It is a UX research method where participants are given five seconds to see an image and then they are asked questions about the design and see how they react to it. With this UX research method, you will be able to easily and quickly determine what type of information your users perceive and the impressions they have during the first five seconds of viewing it. It will help you see if the messaging is effective, or should you make changes based on the impression of the user.

8. Focus Groups

It is a qualitative research method where you gather a few people and try to understand their opinion on certain matters. Focus Groups are usually done for market research or for gathering product feedback, brand critique, and so on. They are usually carried in person and on the premises of the company that does the study. It gives you a great understanding of how customers perceive your product, how they value a few features more than others, why they might have shifted to a different competitor, the kind of experience that they might have had with your product, and so on.

Here are a few things that you need to consider for an effective focus group discussion:

  1. Come up with questions that will pique the interest of the participants.
  2. Ask them to share their own experiences for each of the answers.
  3. Allow each of them to participate in the discussion.
  4. Write the topics that you want to discuss.
  5. Ask simple and clear questions
  6. Ensure that there are at least six people for the focus group discussion.

9. User Personas

A user persona is a fictional representation of who your most ideal customer is. Each brand would have anywhere from five to nine customer personas. Ideal personas are built based on understanding the needs, goals, behaviors, motivations, demographic and firmographic factors. They are created from different types of research such as in-person interviews and already available customer data.

10. Diary Study

It is a long-term study where you see how users interact with the product over a long period of time. In this study, the participants are asked to keep a diary and log information about activities that are being done. The researcher will be able to find the following with the help of a diary study:

  • It tells the primary tasks of the participant
  • Shows their workflow to complete complex tasks
  • Provides behavioral insights
  • Helps understand the participant’s context and environment

11. Guerilla UX research method

It is a quick and low-cost method to gather user feedback where you take a design or a prototype and ask passersby for their initial thoughts. This is such a simple UX research method that you can test new ideas pretty quickly and without burning a hole in your pocket.

Conclusion

Despite it being considered an additional burden, using UX research methods for the benefit of your customers is a great way to show love to them. While there are many UX research methods that you can use for the benefit of your product, you can make a lot of impact just by using a few of them. By gathering insightful data, you will be able to validate your design decisions and provide an end product that your customers will love using.

If you are looking to use an online survey tool to gather data during the information gathering process, SurveySparrow is one of the best tools that you can add to your kitty. It has a lot of exceptional features such as logic branching, anonymous surveys, audience management, custom workflows, etc. All of this will not only add charm to your survey but will also make it as effective as possible.

Kate William

Content Marketer at SurveySparrow

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