A Guide for User Research in Digital Product Design

User research, or UX research, is an absolutely vital part of the user experience design process understanding.

In this guide, we’re going to cover the basics of UX research. We’ll start with exactly what it is, and then move on to discuss the various steps and associated terminology of UX research, as well as its role and value within the broader design process.

If you are getting questions like why is this important? Why are we even thinking about doing this research? This is where you will get all the answers. Let’s find out.

Introduction to User Research

What is user research?

“The process of understanding user behaviors, needs, and attitudes using different observation and feedback collection methods.”

User experience research is the systematic investigation of your users in order to gather insights that will inform the design process. With the help of various user research techniques, you’ll set out to understand your users’ needs, attitudes, pain-points, and behaviors (processes like task analyses look at how users actually navigate the product experience—not just how they should or how they say they do).

“It all starts with the user.”

What are the methods of user research

Today, user experience design has already grown into a sphere with a considerable background of project and research cases, which have resulted in an extensive set of different research methods. Some methods are used on a regular basis, some are more rare and specific, yet it’s good for designers to be aware of a variety of them. Let’s briefly review the popular ones.

User research is based on observation, understanding, and analysis. With the help of various User research techniques, you will:

  • Observe your users, keeping an eye out for non-verbal clues as to how they are feeling and interacting.
  • Develop an understanding of the user’s mental model
  • Analyze the insights you’ve gathered and try to identify patterns and trends.

“Research is creating new knowledge.”

– Neil Armstrong, the First person to walk on the Moon

1. USER INTERVIEWS

Perhaps the most widely spread method is when, having set the target audience of the product, people involved in the creative process interact directly with potential users and ask them questions to collect information. The quality of questions is the issue of high importance here. It’s effective to apply both close (yes/no) and open (giving the detailed answer) questions to let users provide diverse information.

How to conduct interviews:

Hire a skilled interviewer: A skilled interviewer asks questions in a neutral manner, listens well, makes users feel comfortable, and knows when and how to probe for more details.

Create a discussion guide: Write up a discussion guide (or an interview protocol) for all interviewers to follow. This guide should include questions and follow-up questions.

Get informed consent: Before conducting the interview, make sure to get permission or consent to record the session. It’s also good to have one or two note takers on hand.

2. PERSONAS

A user persona is a fictional representation of your ideal customer. A persona is generally based on user research and includes the needs, goals, and observed behavior patterns of your target audience.

How to conduct personas:

Create a well-defined user persona: A great persona contains four key pieces of information: header, demographic profile, end goal(s), scenario.

Keep personas brief: As a rule of thumb, avoid adding extra details that cannot be used to influence the design. If it does not affect the final design or help make any decisions easier: omit it.

Make personas specific and realistic: Avoid exaggerated caricatures, and include enough detail to help you find real-life representation.

3. FOUCUS GROUP

Popular method presenting the moderated discussion of the product, its features, benefits, and drawbacks within the group of people potentially close to the target audience. Altering some characteristics of the group, for example, age, gender, education level, tech literacy, researchers can receive a variety of data and see how these features can influence user behavior.

How to conduct focus group method:

Ask good questions: Make sure your questions are clear, open-ended, and focused on the topics you’re investigating.

Choose a few topics: On average, plan to discuss 3-5 topics during a 90-minute focus group or audience.

Include the right amount of people: A good focus group should include 3-6 users—large enough to include a variety of perspectives, but small enough so everyone has a chance to speak.

4. USIBILITY TESTING

Usability testing helps identify problems before they are coded. When development issues are identified early on, it is typically less expensive to fix them. Usability testing also reveals how satisfied users are with the product , as well as what changes are required to improve user satisfaction and performance.

Usability testing can be broken down into a few major steps:

  • Identify what needs to be tested and why (e.g. a new product, feature, etc.)
  • Identify the target audience (or your desired customers).
  • Create a list of tasks for the participants to work through.
  • Recruit the right participants for the test.
  • Involve the right stakeholders.
  • Apply what you learn.

“Usability is about people and how they understand and use things and not abut technology.”

– Steve krug

5. A/B TESTING

A/B testing, also known as split testing, is a marketing experiment wherein you split your audience to test a number of variations of a campaign and determine which performs better. In other words, you can show version A of a piece of marketing content to one half of your audience, and version B to another.

How to conduct a standard A/B test

  • Formulate your Hypothesis
  • Deciding on Splitting and Evaluation Metrics
  • Create your Control group and Test group
  • Length of the A/B Test
  • Conduct the Test
  • Draw Conclusions
Which User Experience Research Method Should You Use?

Now that you know more about the various user experience research methods, which one do you choose? Well, it all depends on your overall research goals.

You’ll also need to consider what stage you’re at in the design process. If you’re just starting out, you’ll want to focus on understanding your users and the underlying problem. What are you trying to solve? Who are you trying to solve it for? At this early stage in the design process, you’ll typically use a mixture of both qualitative and quantitative methods such as field studies, diary studies, surveys, and data mining.

To help you with the task of choosing your research methods, let’s explore some important distinctions between the various techniques.

Behavioral vs. Attitudinal Research

As mentioned before, there is a big difference between “what people do” versus “what people say.” Attitudinal research is used to understand or measure attitudes and beliefs, whereas behavioral research is used to measure behaviors. For example, usability testing is a behavioral user research method that focuses on action and performance. By contrast, user research methods like user groups, interviews, and persona creation focus on how people think about a product.

Quantitative vs. Qualitative Research

When conducting UX research and choosing a suitable method, it’s important to understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative research.

Qualitative research explores the reasons or motivations behind these actions. Why did the user bounce from your website? What made them “wishlist” an item instead of purchasing it? While quantitative data is fixed, qualitative data is more descriptive and open-ended.

Overall, the purpose of user experience research is simple: to discover patterns and reveal unknown insights and preferences from the people who use your product. It basically provides the context for our design. Research also helps us fight the tendency to design for ourselves (or our stakeholders)—and returns the focus on designing for the user.

“It is Important to get results from experiment but the most important is the process in getting that result.”

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