In 2019, Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen found that 95% of over 30,000 new consumer products launched failed every year. That’s over 28,500 product launches.
Skipping user research may seem cost-efficient in the early days, but how can you design products for users you don’t know?
Rather than creating products based on assumptions about who your target buyer is or the problems they face, UX research provides the data that empowers you to build products your audience love.
Knowing your audience’s needs and how they interact with your product helps you create intuitive products and make product updates that improve user experience.
So, how do you determine which UX research method to use? Can you combine several research methods for project success?
In this article, we’ll discuss:
- What is UX research?
- What are the benefits of UX research?
- What results can you expect from UX research?
- How do you choose a UX research method?
- 15 UX research methods researchers and product teams should know
What Is UX Research?
UX research is the insights generated from users and customers to make decisions that improve the product development process. According to the Interaction Design Foundation, investing in UX research during the concept phase could reduce the product development cycle by 33%-50%.
Product teams gain deeper insights into the user’s needs and motivations by conducting research, analyzing results, and making recommendations. These insights ensure that UX designers are creating products that people want based on data, not assumptions.
What are the Benefits of Conducting UX Research?
1. Build Products That Are Relevant to the User
The most important reason for conducting user research is to understand the people who will use your product. If you understand your users, you can create products that they’ll enjoy for a long time. On the flip side, if you ignore UX research, you risk launching a product that fails.
2. Create Products that Are Easy to Use and Enjoy
According to squaretalk, customers spend 140% more with companies with great experience than those who had unsatisfactory ones. A great user experience is crucial to product success. You build a loyal customer base when your product is easy to use and frictionless. Complicated products lead to frustrated users, which results in poor sales.
This quote from Don Norman, co-founder, and principal of Nielsen Norman Group says it better:
“It’s not enough that we build products that function, that is understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.”
3. Understand the ROI of UX design
Executives and shareholders sometimes don’t see the value of investing in user research because the ROI cannot be clearly measured.
However, some of the intangible benefits of investing in UX research include:
- A deeper understanding of your target user
- More opportunities to turn visitors into repeat customers
- Improved customer experience
- Increased speed of development without slowing down to implement changes from poor UX
- Cheaper to detect usability issues in the discovery stage than when the prototype has been built or product launched
What Results Can You Expect from UX Research?
Results to expect from UX research include:
- Increase conversion rates
- More sign-ups
- Higher Net Promoter Score (NPS)
- A boost in customer satisfaction and brand loyalty
- Increase sales
- Less burden on resources
- More efficient work processes
- Cost-savings during production
- More valuable insights that inform the product development process
How Do You Decide Which UX Research Method to Use?
The UX research method you choose depends on the goals of the research. To choose a research method, answer these questions:
- What information do you already know about your users (goals, needs, behavior, or motivation)?
- Where do gaps exist in your research?
- What do people want from your product?
- Is your product easy to use?
The three main research methodologies are:
- Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
- Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Research
- Generative vs. Evaluation Research
Let’s explore each in detail.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Quantitative research measures user behavior that can be quantified such as statistics and numbers. Qualitative research deals with words or descriptive elements like feelings that can be observed but not measured.
Researchers use quantitative methodologies to test or confirm assumptions and theories with the goal to establish generalized facts about a topic. Common techniques include surveys with close-ended questions, experiments, graphs, and tables.
Qualitative research focuses on collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data such as emotion, behavior, opinion, or feeling that cannot be represented in a numerical format. While researchers can easily draw insight from quantitative research by calculating numerical data points, qualitative research requires categorizing responses and manually analyzing data sets.
Examples of qualitative research methods include user interviews, case study research, focus groups, diary accounts, and ethnography.
Use quantitative research to test a theory or hypothesis and qualitative research to understand human thoughts, experiences, or behavior.
Attitudinal vs. Behavioral Research
Think of attitudinal as what people say and behavioral as what people do. The goal of attitudinal research is to measure the user’s preconceived beliefs, attitudes, or feelings. Attitudinal methods provide insight into a user’s needs, thoughts, and motivations.
Examples of questions to ask include:
- What do you really think of this product?
- How much do you think this product is worth?
- How would you use this product?
Behavioral research measures what people do and provide insight into how research participants interact with a product. An example would be a company launching a new vacuum cleaner and watching a participant use the product in tasks while researchers learn from their behavior.
Generative vs. Evaluation Research
Generative research is a form of exploratory research that helps you develop a more in-depth understanding of users with the goal to find opportunities for innovation and solutions. The solutions could be making an update to an existing product or building a new product that solves a problem for your users.
Evaluation research is used to assess a problem and tie it to a specific need and desire of your target audience. The goal is to ensure that your product is easy to use and meets the user’s needs. Conduct evaluative research during early concept design and right up to the final product completion.
15 UX Research Methods Remote Product Teams Should Know
User interview helps you understand a user’s motivations, feelings, and how they interact with a product or service.
You can conduct user interviews in a variety of situations such as:
- At the start of the project before you have a clear concept
- When you have an early model
- After launch to see how users interact with your product
Observation helps UX researchers and designers to develop an objective view of the product. By watching participants interact with the product, you can identify major strengths and opportunities to improve user experience.
Make sure you pair observation with interviewing to gain deeper insights. For example, when you ask a question about a product use case, follow up with another question to demonstrate:
- What do you use product X for?
- Can you show me how you perform that task with product x?
3. Diary Studying
Use diary studies to uncover user activities, behaviors, and experiences that occur over an extended time. You’re taking a peek into how your ideal customer interacts with your product in their environment. As you observe, take notes, keep logs, and highlight information that stands out.
Here are a few scenarios to use diary studying:
- You’re curious about the moments and interactions that drive decision-making
- You want to learn why users take spontenous decisions
- To evaluate a variety of experiences and learn how perceptions change over time
- You’re looking for a simple, straightforward way to make an impact with your stakeholders.
- You don’t want participants to be influenced by your presence (or other participants’ presence), especially around sensitive topics
Ask participants to document their experiences, feelings, and thoughts at a specific time of the day. Share exact questions you’d like them to fill in their diary. Alternatively, you can leave it up to them if you want real answers beyond the scope of your questions.
4. Experience Sampling
Experience sampling helps you identify and understand the most important factors about a specific behavior. That way, you know where to focus your efforts while observing or interviewing participants. You can ask the same question repeatedly to see how participants’ experiences vary.
For example, if the goal of the study is to learn more about people’s water-intake habits, you can ask them the same set of questions several times a day:
- When was your last drink? (morning, afternoon, and evening)
- Do you drink tap water or bottled water? (morning, afternoon, and evening)
- If you drink bottled water, where do you purchase it? (morning, afternoon, and evening)
The goal of experience sampling is to find pain points quickly through qualitative and quantitative methods. Experience sampling doesn’t replace observation and UX interview. Rather, it helps you to prioritize and focus on what’s most important.
In UX research, understanding is creating mental models. A mental model is a picture that forms in a person’s mind when they think of a specific situation or phrase. For example, if you own a vesper, your mental image of a motorcycle will differ from a mental model who owns a cruiser. We are influenced by our surroundings and the mental model plays a big role in human decision-making.
As a researcher, you must understand the mental models of the research participants you’re interviewing so you can design questions to accommodate that model.
6. Online Research
With online research, you find and go to where your ideal users hang out. Start by identifying your audience and give them a name. Use online research during the product discovery phase to gather information about a pain point and develop a product idea to solve them.
Steps to carrying out online research include:
- Define your audience
- Conduct online searches to find communities where they hang out
- Explore forums and groups where they talk about their problems and share solutions
- Use keywords to search social media feeds on Quora, Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, and Slack communities
For example, one of Aurelius’s audience segments is “UX researchers.” We plug that keyword into Google to identify online communities where UX researchers hang out.
7. Remote Usability Testing
With remote usability testing, researchers can test participants even if they are in different locations. Usability testing is great when you’re sketching ideas or have an early prototype. When testing continuously, 5 users will find 85% of your usability problems.
During usability testing, you can test complete processes or stick to individual tasks. You record the participant’s screen and voice as they interact with your product in their natural environment.
During usability testing, you observe the research participant as they complete a task with your product. The result is a comprehensive report with all the usability issues found and recordings of each review.
Usability tests uncover issues like:
- What do they know about my product or its use cases?
- What don’t they understand?
- Where do people get stuck when using my product?
8. A/B Testing
A/B testing allows users to compare two or more randomly selected variants. The results reveal which solution works best during real-world use. According to Invesp, 58% of companies use A/B testing to improve conversion rate optimization. The goal of A/B tests is to decide the solution that works better through predetermined metrics as a yardstick.
Choose the right metric beforehand, and define guidelines for participants. Then, you can run the two versions simultaneously. For a simple A/B test with two variants, make sure there’s only one difference. Too many differences can confuse participants.
9. Desirability Study
Desirability studies help you discover the user’s potential emotional responses or attitudes towards your prototype’s visual design. An appealing visual design improves usability and increases the chances of an excellent first impression.
To get the most from a desirability study, create visually appealing mockups with different interface and style directions the solution will cover. Next, recruit participants to share their emotional responses to the mockups displayed. Participants choose from a closed list of attributes with various adjectives that best describe how they feel about your product.
10. Five Seconds Testing
People have short attention spans. When they visit your website, you only have a few seconds to build trust and show value. A five-second test quickly analyzes what users think about your new logo, landing page, or web page.
For instance, you can show them a new landing page or interface for 5-10 seconds. Next, you ask questions like:
- What do you think the website is about?
- How does it make you feel?
The results can lead to an improvement of the visual or textual elements on the website.
11. Card Sorting
Card sorting is a qualitative UX research method where you write words or phrases on a card and ask research participants to label and categorize them. UX designers working on a new product use this technique to determine if the Information Architecture is done right or needs to be re-examined.
Compared to in-person interviews, card sorting is cheap and easy for users and project stakeholders to understand. It’s a great way to get user validation during the early stages of a UX project.
12. Customer Feedback
A customer is 4x more likely to defect to a competitor because of poor customer service than product-related issues. Laying the groundwork for great customer service is crucial to developing a user-centric product.
Ask your customer-facing teams to collect feedback around pain points that led the user to buy your product and issues they face when using the product. You can get feedback from customer calls, social media mentions, feedback surveys, and focus groups.
13. Focus Groups
A focus group is a qualitative research technique where you study a group of people to learn more about their opinions and beliefs. The goal is to gather feedback for messaging, product design, and more. According to Vox, brands can’t quit focus groups even in the age of big data because it’s still a great source of research information.
Use focus groups to discern:
- What users really think about your product
- What they believe is your unique selling point
- Problems they experience when using your product
A typical focus group lasts around two hours and includes several participants with a moderator overseeing the discussion.
14. Questionnaire and Surveys
Surveys and questionnaires are a quick way to collect large datasets about a target audience. If your research project features a diverse group of users, you can use survey tools like Google Forms, TypeForm, and Survey Monkey to gather responses in minutes.
After interviewing participants, collecting feedback from surveys and other research methods, you’ll probably have a lot of notes, videos, and audio recordings to sort through. Qualitative data can be overwhelming if you don’t know how to analyze data.
Aurelius helps you make sense of all the data you’ve collected so you can find insights quickly and share your research findings with stakeholders.
Here are some ways Aurelius can help you:
Turn Research Data Into Notes
Aurelius turns all your excel spreadsheets, video, and audio files into text-based Notes. You can create a new Project and upload your research data with the Magic Uploader. If your data is stored elsewhere, you can use the Bulk Input feature to copy and paste data.
Find Information Quickly With Tags
To make the analysis process less tedious, use Project Tags to quickly find or describe your user interviews.
Examples of Tags in Aurelius include:
- Name of interviewee
- Research goals
- Questions asked during the interview
- Name of product or topic
Highlight Your Major Findings With Key Insights
Use Key Insights to summarize what you learned from each user interview. You can also use Key Insight to share high-level research points with stakeholders.
Make Suggestions With Recommendations
Use the Recommendations feature to capture suggestions, action items, and research outcomes. Add Key Insight to Recommendations to provide more context. You can turn Recommendations and Insights from your Project into customized Reports. Share the Report with teammates and project stakeholders via a live link, downloadable pdf, or email.
The UX Research Method You Choose Depends on Your Goals
It’s impossible to create user-centered products without a deep understanding of your target market. However, research fails when you use the wrong techniques. Choosing the right UX research method ensures you get insight that shapes the design process and create a product that people enjoy using for a long time.
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