UX Research: The foundation of User-first designs starts here

Products that don’t deliver value are nothing but garbage. The ultimate goal of any product is to deliver value to ensure user satisfaction. The path to reaching the ultimate goal is filled with known and unknown hurdles. You can find solutions to the known problems. It is easy to win a war if you know your enemy. But those unknown problems in your product’s UX are the real issue. Sometimes these are so dangerous that they not only limit the product’s growth potential but even can destroy it. UX Research helps in discovering and solving these problems. This is the reason that many big companies spend so much on UX Research.

What’s the most complex part of the whole design process?

Design? Nope! UX research? Bingo!

UX research is one of the most complex steps in the whole design process. As a design agency, we’ve encountered multiple instances where we’ve witnessed the wonderful outcomes of including efficient user research for a project. Undoubtedly, It is one of the essential steps!

To build an effective UX, knowing the number of users is not enough. You need to see whether they were satisfied using your product and were able to use it effectively. As a UX designer, you will come across numerous situations where the users will engage your product in an unexpected environment. And you will have no control over it.

UX research ensures you ground ideas for reality and improve the odds of success. It allows you to see what users see, and understand how they think.  

How do expect your users to love your product when you don’t consider what they need? UX designers need to see problems through the eyes of users. Rather than relying on assumptions and aspirations, designers should follow a disciplined approach to user research. 

What is UX Research?

UX research is a systematic study of users to learn their behavior and how they think and perceive your product. It helps teams improve their product decisions and build a more user-first and effective product. It is the practice of studying and understanding user interactions and their experience with your product. 

The UX researchers uncover the user behaviors and their needs. Hence, the UX design is done based on UX research, resulting in a user-first product to beat the odds of failure.

The insights from the user research help enhance the design process. User research is not limited to that. The practice of testing and validating your prototypes and designs is also a part of UX research. It is important for all corners of the business and helps advance your business decisions.   

Worth of UX Research

The value of UX research! Businesses often feel that the research process can be skipped or it is okay to spend less on user research as they don’t see it as much worthy. UX research’s ROI is complicated. A lot of its part goes undocumented and it becomes difficult to keep track.

A report by McKinsey says that a well-done UX yields up to 300% of return. Without the element of research and empathy in UX design, you cannot consider your design user-centric. A report published by IBM says that every $ invested in UX gives a return ranging from $10-$100.

The founder of UI engineering, Jared Spool projected that a simple tweak in the UI of Amazon contributed to around $2.7 billion. It is challenging to convince clients of the value of UX research and make them understand that there’s no effective UX design without good UX research.

User experience is for the users and you cannot build an effective UX without the complete knowledge of your users and their needs. Clients may insist on skipping this step and are willing to spend their budget on the design and development part of the project rather than research.

This happens because they don’t consider user experience research important enough for their budget. And the job of a UX expert is to make them understand the need for UX research for their project. 

When you should consider a UX Research

UX research is an ongoing process. There’s no definite stage where you need UX research. The requirement of UX research is different at every stage of design. They work best according to the need of the hour. In the early stages, in-depth interviews work great and usability testing works perfectly post the visual design. 

In earlier times, people focused on solving one specific problem at a time. And the user research was done to find out how to solve the particular problem. Thus, research was never done as a part of the development process or to discover something new. But now that has changed to now finding out problems to solve from only solving the existing problems. 

Make sure the research process is always going on in the background. During the design and development process for your website or app, you will encounter questions and problems that will be unforeseen. Every stage will demand various methods to deal with the problem at hand.

Importance of UX Research 

UX refers to user experience. And it includes the word ‘user’. But rather than using concrete research data, designers rely on assumed data for building user-first designs. And they fail! And at the same time, clients fail to recognize the need for UX research. It is one of the biggest challenges faced by designers. One must know how to make your client understand the need for UX research. 

The learnings from user research are an integral asset to your product’s success. User experience research provides a base for the design strategy. Thus, every design decision you make will be backed by research-based data.

Bringing users to your website is not enough. A product design is successful when the users complete their intended tasks and turn into customers. All the resources and efforts behind the UX design of a product go in vain when nobody uses the product. UX research allows you to improve your design according to the user’s needs.

Most companies fail because they decide on the features without solving the problems faced by the users.

Here’s how UX research is beneficial to your business,

  • It allows you to make the learning curve easy for users. 
  • The designs you create will be efficient and valuable to use for users. 
  • You get to validate your hypothesis regarding the product design with research
  • User research also helps analyze competitors
  • It helps in identifying the early adopters of your product
  • It provides an estimated idea of your product’s success and failure without moving into the hard work phase
  • You can identify usability problems with the product and brainstorm solutions for it

UX Research Process 

Define the objective

To solve the problems you need to identify them first. You can see where the product is lacking behind by identifying the pain points in the customer journey in your product. Firstly, you need to identify what the problem is? What kind of users do you have? What do you need to know about the problem and what do you know about the problem at present? How the users are solving the problem in alternate ways?

Prepare a research plan

There’s no execution without planning. Your research plan is essential in briefing how you will be conducting the research and what methods to utilize. Here, for instance, you need to define who will be participating in the research process? What results are you looking for from the user research?

The questions you have will be generated from your objective and those will lead you to help in choosing the methods you want to go for. 

Methodologies

At this stage, you will be defining the methods to perform the research. You need to follow a systematic process to gather relevant data. and the same goes for data analysis. It is better to opt for more than one method.

For the initial stage of UX research,  interviews, surveys, market, and trend research are more suitable. Then for the ideas and inspiration, methods like card sorting, paper prototyping, and such go the best for all the design-related activities.  To validate your UX design, you can use methods like cognitive walkthroughs, heuristic evaluations, usability tests, etc.

Gathering data and interpreting

Now that you’ve obtained enough data, it is time to analyze it and bring meaning out of it. It will seem like a messy process and you will need to read between the lines and see the meaning behind the piece of data in front of you to understand what’s going on. And with the solid data revise your wireframes and improvise your design with more confidence. 

Types of UX Research

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is the collection and analysis of numerical data. It is easy to interpret quantitative data. Since people believe in numbers more than anything else, it becomes easy to present data less subjectively. Quantitative research aims at finding patterns and casual relationships to make predictions for the generalized results.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research refers to the data observed and tracked through one’s natural behavior and see how and why one interacts with your product. Meanwhile, qualitative research data relies on non-numerical data. It is more inclined with characteristics, observations, and recordings.

Qualitative research aims at finding what an individual seeks and how they interact with your product. It becomes an effective option for understanding people’s behavior and their opinions. 

Attitudinal Research

Attitudinal research refers to interpreting the users’ attitude toward the product design. To illustrate what features they like or dislike in a product. Thus, you get to identify why the user actions are happening if a problem arises. For conducting attitudinal research you can use surveys and focus group methods. To clarify, it helps in knocking out ideas and features that are underperforming. 

Behavioral Research

Behavioral research refers to the quantitative research of how the users interact with your product. It shows the actions the users are taking. Often, what users say and behave differs, and to understand user behavior you need to conduct both attitudinal and behavioral methods. For behavioral research, usability testing, a/b testing, and benchmarking methods are recommended. 

Generative Research 

Generative is an exploratory research method for UX where a UX researcher approaches generative research to identify and seek innovative solutions. It is more focused on finding new and innovative ideas or improving the existing design. Though, you might not be knowing what problem you are trying to solve. Thus, you need to be prepared with all the required data like user behavior, attitudes, and perceptions. 

Evaluation Research

Evaluation research also known as evaluative research is the method of assessing the problems in an existing product and seeing whether it fits right for the real-time users and their needs. Evaluative research should be conducted throughout the design and development cycle.

In the evaluative research process, the aim is to get the product into users’ hands as soon as possible to see refined the product design to the user expectations. 

Methods of UX Research

In UX research, depending on one method of user experience research isn’t enough. You need to rely on multiple user research methods together to track a relationship between them and identify core issues from various insights. But before all of this, you need to define a research goal. 

Contributor’s observation

In this method, you observe and record your users’ behavior and preferences. Here, you don’t want to overwhelm users with questions. Instead, you should keep it low-key. One such method is ethnography study. Where the users record themselves in a store or at home. It helps take a step into their day-to-day life and track their behavior and see how your product will fit into their routines. 

In-depth interviews

One-on-one interaction helps in understanding the users’ perspectives and their experiences with the product. In an in-depth interview, you can get the idea of the actual sense and directions the user is inclined towards regarding their answers. It becomes easy to figure out their body language and behavior while testing out the designs. 

Focus groups

A Focus group refers to bringing together 4 or 5 people or even more for a discussion. The participants are selected carefully to represent a larger group population. The group shares their ideas, insights, opinions, and experiences with the product. Also, there’s a mediator present who takes notes of the discussion. It is a quick and insightful way of gathering data from various individuals. Additionally, there’s immediate access to user opinions with this UX research method. 

A/B testing              

A/B testing is a method of testing two options against each other and seeing which design works the best. Here, you can present both designs A and B to potential users and see what they prefer. Ask in detail why they prefer one design over the other. And you will identify what makes one design better than the other and what are the preferences of your users. Hence, making the analysis easier for the UX researchers.  

Surveys

Surveys are a great way to obtain real-time user opinions. It is an inexpensive and quick way to gather user data. To form the right questions, understand the pain points your users are facing and try to know more where the problem lies. Besides, there are several types of questions: open-ended, follow-up questions, yes or no questions, and biased questions. 

Moreover, To gather more accurate data opt for questions where you lead users to answer more in detail. To achieve that you can opt for open-ended questions or task-driven feedback questions. here, you specifically ask about a feature or their experience with the product or service. 

Benchmarking 

Benchmarking is a comprehensive analysis of the overall performance of the product. Generally, you use benchmarking at the end of one design cycle. Given that the product design keeps on changing to suit the changing user needs. It is a method of collecting the releases of design success over a period of time. Given that, it helps analyze the UX of your product with various metrics like the product’s previous versions, competitors, or an industry benchmark. 

Web analytics

Web analytics tools are for tracking user behavior and analyzing their UX with your product. The keyword maps, user journey, and their screen interaction help identify the pain points and where exactly the UX design needs improving. Hence, this is a popular quantitative research method. 

Usability Testing 

Usability testing refers to assessing the product with real-time users. Here, the users will be performing certain defined tasks. Meanwhile, UX researchers will be taking notes. Usability testing aims to identify any usability problems with the product. Moreover, it allows you to see if the users are satisfied with the product. 

Card sorting

Card sorting is an effective user research method for evaluating your product’s IA. In this method, the participants are asked to group the cards according to their logical understanding. They will form a structure. This will help in knowing whether the web or app IA is going right and is according to the users’ understanding. Nonetheless, it is an inexpensive method and it can be done on paper, in notes, or you can use online tools. 

What result you can expect from UX Research

Gathering data and analyzing the metrics is not the ultimate user research. It goes beyond that. One needs to identify the pain points and keep an eye for problems one wouldn’t realize otherwise. Above all, user experience research fuels the design efforts!

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