How to Create a Repeatable Process for UX Research

UX Research process

When conducting user research, it’s important to establish a repeatable process that everyone in your organization follows. Processes describe how tasks should be completed and increase your chances for a successful outcome.

It’s easier to get buy-in from stakeholders when you have a process that shows how your research will solve a problem, directly impact growth and improve customer satisfaction.

In this article, we’ll show you how to create a user research process that guides all future research projects. We’ll also walk you through the process of organizing, analyzing, and sharing research findings with stakeholders to drive action.

10 Tips to Create a UX Research Process

Steps of a UX research process

Before the Research (Discovery Phase)

1. Host a Kickoff Meeting to Brainstorm Ideas

One of the best ways to get stakeholders to understand the value of UX research is to bring them into the discovery phase of the research process. Stakeholders could be the product team, product engineers, UX designers, and even your customers. 

During the meeting, you’ll discuss the problem in detail, write down existing biases and answer questions such as:

  • What do we know or don’t know about the problem? (Questions to identify gaps in existing research around the problem)
  • Which competitors are solving this problem for our users? (Questions to understand competitors and their unique value proposition)
  • Who will be the subject of this research? (Questions to define psychographics and demographics when recruiting for research)
  • When do they use the solution?

The answers to these questions should help you form problem hypotheses and craft research questions.

2. Define the Goals and Objectives of the Project

Discovery is where you learn about the goals of the project and the needs of your market. During discovery, you’ll go from the uncertainty of not knowing who your ideal user is to the certainty of knowing your:

  • Target market
  • Product requirement
  • Potential users

Discovery is important because it connects the dots. A product is only useful when it solves a market problem at the right time and for the right audience.

3. Determine the Hypothesis

At this point, you have a ton of ideas and design solutions your team has discussed. The easy part is generating a research hypothesis. Where the hard work happens is in framing questions around these hypotheses. Each team member should take 10 minutes writing questions and answers on a sticky note.

For example, when thinking about a screenshotting feature for your fashion app, hypotheses could include:

Behaviour-related: Online users want to share experiences in real-time with friends who have a similar fashion style

Attitude-related: Fashion lovers who shop online like to see what others are buying

Feature-related: Fashion lovers are more likely to share a screenshot of a clothing item if it’s a popular product 

4. Choose Your UX Research Methods

At this stage, you have design hypotheses and research objectives. How will you fill the knowledge gaps and achieve your objective?

No two projects are the same. Hence, the UX research methods you choose depend on the questions you want to answer.

During the discovery stage you may use:

  • Stakeholder interviews to ensure your research encapsulates the user goals and the business goals
  • Focus groups to figure out your ideal audience and the problems they face
  • Generative interviews to make hypotheses around a problem or find solutions to a defined problem

During the research process you may use:

  • User interviews to answer your research questions, eliminate some hypotheses, and gather research data
  • Diary studies to understand long term behavior that leads to better product designs
  • Field studies to speak remotely with research participants
  • Ethnography to observe people in their daily lives
  • Qualitative usability testing to get feedback on a live product or prototype
  • Task analysis to understand how users achieve goals with a product
  • A/B testing to show which variant achieves the goal of the test
  • Card sorting to organize information

5. Define Your UX Research Plan

16 step ux research plan guide

A UX research plan allows you to gather ideas from teammates and project stakeholders. Planning prevents surprises that may occur during the project. It’s how you learn what works or doesn’t work during the UX research process.

A few things that happen during planning include:

  • Study existing solutions
  • Outline the scope of the research
  • Finalize research interview questions
  • Determine budget and project timeline
  • Choose UX research tools
  • Establish project protocols
  • Recruit participants
  • Determine how success will be measured
  • Set clear expectations on everyone’s involvement
  • Assign roles
  • Document decisions

During the Research

6. Collect data 

You’ll be using the UX research methods you’ve decided on to collect data. A few options for data collation include:

User interviews

UX interviews help product teams, researchers, and designers to create better user experiences. UX interview is mostly used during the early stages of UX research when you’re still learning about the user’s motivations and how they interact with the product.

A checklist for conducting user interviews

User interviews can be used when you have an early prototype to collect feedback and improve the user experience. You could also use interviews in combination with observations to see how research participants use the product in their natural habitat.

A few examples of questions to get the most insight during user interviews include:

Discovery questions

  • How did you feel after you started using this product?
  • What are the problems you want this app to solve?
  • How often do you use similar apps?

User behavior questions

  • How do you navigate the app?
  • Who would you contact if you had issues with the app?
  • What is the most important task you perform with the app?

Task questions

  • Show me how you use the app to complete a task?
  • Assuming I’m using the app for the first time, how would you guide me so I can do it myself next time?

Remember, during interview sessions, your goal is to disprove or validate your research hypothesis while learning all that you can about the user’s needs and pain points.

What were the major findings from the call? Is there a specific problem or feature that is mentioned repeatedly? Set aside time at the end of each call to go through your findings with team members and stakeholders.

Usability Testing

Usability testing is evaluating a product by testing it with users from your target audience. The research participants perform a task while you watch, listen and take notes. The goal is to identify issues with usability and collect quantitative and qualitative data to understand the level of satisfaction with the product.

Questions you’ll answer during usability testing sessions include:

  • How easy is it to complete specific tasks successfully?
  • Are participants satisfied with the product or website?
  • How long did it take to complete the task?
  • What changes should you make to improve satisfaction and performance?
  • Does performance meet usability objectives?

Accessibility Testing

Accessibility testing

Accessibility testing is making your product, app, or website usable for as many people as possible. 15% of the world’s population has a disability. It’s important to remember that people with special needs will also use your product. Hence, your product should be easily accessible for users with hearing disabilities, vision impairment, and other cognitive or physical disabilities.

Apart from designing for people with disabilities, you should also remember unconscious bias built into products. Accessibility testing ensures that your product is inclusive for all people across gender, racial and geographic lines.

Accessibility should not be an afterthought. Instead, it should be incorporated into the initial product design to align with your test cycle and sync with the final results.

Data to collect during accessibility testing include:

  • Text contrast
  • Hit area size area for user interaction
  • Labels used by voice assistant technologies like Siri and Alexa
  • Dynamic font size option for users to increase the font size as they please
  • View hierarchy of UI that makes apps easy to navigate

Focus Group

Focus groups

A focus group is a research technique to collect data through small group interactions. Each participant is carefully selected to represent a larger target audience. 

In a focus group, 6-10 people gather to share opinions and feedback about a new or updated product. Focus groups offer direct access to customers. You gather responses in large batches which makes it faster to collect and analyze data.

Questions to ask during focus groups include:

1. Primary questions to initiate discussion

What are your thoughts after using the product?

2. Probe questions to dig deeper

What do you know about—? 

What do you like about our product?

3. Follow up questions 

What would you say are the best and worst parts of the product?

Would you recommend this product to others?

If not, why?

How can we make the product better?

4. Concluding questions

Is there anything outside of the questions we’ve asked that you’d like to talk about?

Do you have anything else to add to what we’ve already discussed?

Ethnography

Ethnography is a qualitative research technique where you observe research participants in their natural environment. The goal is to understand your customer needs and how you can satisfy market demands.

During ethnography research, participants are observed for extended periods of time in a social group to collect data.

A few ways to collect data in ethnographic research include:

Observation of individuals and observation of groups: Record behavioral patterns of individuals in their natural habitat. The ethnographer becomes a part of the group so they are better able to understand the habits and experiences of research participants

Documentary analysis or archival research: Analyzing existing documents, research, and other relevant information about the target group to gain more information. Since researchers do not directly engage with participants, it reduces the chances of experimental biases.

Unstructured interviews: The researcher asks questions that reveal more information as participants engage in different research-related activities.

Surveys: It involves writing hypotheses as survey questions and getting participants to answer these questions in a research environment. The goal is to understand the causative factors of various habits and come up with explanations for these behaviors.

Field notes: Data collection is mostly based on logs, observer notes, and diaries. Additional data may include public records, videos, and photographs taken during observation.

After the Research

7. Synthesize and Organize Research Findings

Towards the end of the research process, you’ll probably feel overwhelmed by the number of data sets you’ve gathered from multiple research methods. Where do you begin? How do you get all the data in one place so that it’s easy to make sense of?

Synthesizing research findings means bringing all your research data into one place. It involves summarizing, evaluating, and interpreting your research data. The goal is to connect the dots, draw a conclusion and make recommendations that prove your hypothesis.

According to Aurelius’ co-founder Zack Naylor, the first step in creating an organized UX research database is to have a plan on how to collect and organize raw notes and data as you take them. 

Organizing information as you collect them speeds up the research analysis process. It makes it easier to find and reuse data when you’re researching a similar topic in the future. 

UX research projects in Aurelius

It’s important to have a consistent pattern for labeling notes and data for all projects. You could label data by project name, categories in the project, or product feature. The key is to store the data as soon as it’s collected so it’s easier to organize and reference.

Aurelius lets you create and manage a research repository. You can upload multiple file-formats from excel spreadsheets, videos, audio, and more. Once you’ve uploaded the data, use your preferred file format to organize your research data in Projects.

Use the Projects feature to collect research notes, record outcomes, tag notes, and capture findings. You can also store a plethora of research data in your Projects including usability testing sessions, survey responses, video, and audio recordings.

8. Analyze Research Data 

Analyzing research data simply means drawing insight to support decision-making. For many organizations, the problem isn’t gathering data, it’s sorting through the data to draw an accurate conclusion.

We don’t advise researchers to share raw research data alone. Apart from privacy issues of exposing your participant information, it’s an overwhelming amount of information to digest. 

Instead, use the Key Insights feature in Aurelius to highlight relevant text from your notes and create snackable UX research nuggets. Where most research reports are long and boring, UX nuggets are easy to understand and revisit.

We recommend analyzing research in four parts:

Key Insight statement: The product team wants to add a screen share feature to the streaming app to increase engagement and content recommendations

Description of the key insight: We found that users are motivated to spend more time watching content with friends in real-time than alone.

Add notes and documents to support key insight such as interviews, usability testing sessions, and notes, quotes and observations

Tags: #screensharing #new-product-feature

9. Share UX research with stakeholders 

A research nugget that isn’t shared doesn’t exist. Aurelius automatically turns your Key Insights and Recommendations from your Project into a research report. You can use design elements to customize the report and present UX research as a live link or PDF with all project stakeholders.

10. Post-Launch Listening

Post-launch listening

After launching a new feature or product, you still have to keep the conversation alive with prospective users and customers.

When listening, decide how you’ll measure the success of the new product or feature. What are customers saying about the product? Does it fulfill the problem you set out to solve? 

Schedule calls with users to gain a deeper understanding of how they’re using the new product. Other ways to listen include:

Web analytics

Analytics from quantitative data helps you connect research insight to action. Define KPIs so you know what analytics to monitor. It could also be useful to bring in someone from the data and analytics team to track changes over time and identify variances that suggest a problem or prove success.

Surveys

Survey types to use for listening include sourced participants, user intercepts, and short surveys. When choosing survey tools for post-launch listening, consider:

  • Where you’ll get actionable insight to improve product experience?
  • Who is in charge of reaching out to customers for feedback?
  • Are you getting enough feedback to optimize touchpoints?

Bug and FAQ Reporting

Use the data from bug reporting to understand where users experience frustrations when using the product or app. Collaborate with the dev team to ensure you’re getting the right data. Support desk and FAQ reporting also help you understand where users get confused when using the product. Taking action based on the data improves user experience and reduces support queries. 

Create a Repeatable UX Research Process to Streamline Research and Save Time

Without a process, you’ll be winging user research. And if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you don’t “wing” anything that’s involved with data. 

Having a repeatable process gives you a structure to work off when conducting user research. It ensures that you organize research data properly and analyze information without feeling overwhelmed. 

It becomes the blueprint that everyone at your organization uses during research, which makes it easy to collaborate on projects and draw insights more quickly.

Learn how Aurelius Can Help You Gather and Synthesize Qualitative Data Quickly

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 37 – DesignOps & ResearchOps in the Enterprise with Fred Beecher

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 36 with Natalie Hanson on Sharing and Communicating User Research

Episode 36 highlights with Natalie Hanson on Sharing and Communicating User Research:

  • Differences between in house and external UX teams and the unique challenges of each
  • Tips for collaborating with others on your user research work
  • How to encourage non-designers and non-researchers to collaborate on user research and insights
  • Tips for working with stakeholders who believe they already know what needs to be designed
  • Effectively communicating user research insights to inspire action from executives, developers and more

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 33 with Kate Towsey on ResearchOps, User Research Repositories and Strategic Impact

Episode 33 highlights with Kate Towsey:

  • Kate’s background and how she got into user research and ResearchOps
  • What it was like to “research the researchers”
  • The global ResearchOps community and how it all began
  • Research repositories and libraries
  • Leading research operations at Atlassian
  • How and why the ResearchOps community grew to what it is now
  • Kate’s definition for #WhatisResearchOps?

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Organize and Share Your User Research with a Central Repository

Create Company Wide Empathy with a User Research Repository

Creating insights to share and act on is the most important work you do as a UX or user research professional.

Your research must create a sense of empathy for the people you’re designing for with your team and company. This means your insights and findings must be clear, findable and actionable.

With rapidly changing expectations and methods for communication and sharing knowledge, it’s critical to start building a sustainable research practice right away that builds institutional knowledge of your customers.

Doing so generates better intuition and decision making, as well as wide spread empathy at your organization.

Investing in a user research repository to organize, search and share everything you learn from customer research early helps you accomplish these things and build true customer empathy in your organization.

read more… “Organize and Share Your User Research with a Central Repository”

Aurelius Podcast: Episode 32 with Gregg Bernstein on User Research and Strategic Impact

Gregg Bernstein On User Research – Aurelius Podcast Episode 32 Highlights:

  • How Gregg and his team are doing user research at Vox Media
  • Doing user research for broad audiences and industries
  • Using smaller research projects to lead to larger more strategic research
  • How to most effectively share your user research findings with stakeholders and your team
  • Thoughts on UX research repositories and libraries
  • Tools and tips for setting up your ResearchOps and process for taking in, conducting and sharing user research at your company
  • Making user research more strategic to influence company focus and direction
  • Avoiding the pitfalls of overthinking in the user research process

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 31 with Hana Nagel on Building Confidence Through User Research in Your Organization

Episode 31 highlights with Hana Nagel:

  • How the President of the United States did “user research” and what you can learn from that in your work as a UX designer, researcher and product maker
  • Doing user research…about user research, so that you can see much more success with your organization adopting a more user centered mindset
  • Focusing on the outcomes of research to create a greater impact with user research at your company
  • Learning the behavior of your teams and company in order to sell user research internally
  • How to empower other teams to do user research themselves in order to scale user research at your company
  • How to turn user research and findings into action and recommendations
  • Giving your team and company confidence in doing the right things

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 30 with Dave Malouf on DesignOps and ResearchOps

Episode 30 highlights with Dave Malouf:

  • What is ResearchOps and DesignOps?
  • Challenges of operationalizing research and design in growing organizations and how to overcome them
  • Dave’s tips and insights in how to grow design and research in your company more efficiently
  • Who owns “ResearchOps” and what does that person(s) do?
  • How to determine when you should be thinking about DesignOps and ResearchOps

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 23 with Lindsey Redinger on User Research and ResearchOps

Episode 23 Highlights:

  • What is ResearchOps and how do you operationalize user research?
  • Making research accessible to everyone in the organization
  • How InVision documents and stores user research insights
  • Lindsey’s trick for helping all of InVision build empathy with their customers
  • Getting new employees at InVision up to speed with who their customers are as part of their new hire onboarding
  • How to get started in your ResearchOps practice or operationalizing user research and your company
  • Keeping individual projects aligned to broader company goals
  • How Lindsey and InVision uses the Jobs To Be Done framework to keep user research focused

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Aurelius Podcast: Episode 21 with Lou Rosenfeld on DesignOps, ResearchOps and UX

Episode 21 Highlights:

  • Lou’s background, the beginning of the internet and how UX/IA all started
  • The stories behind Lou meeting Tim Berners Lee and Larry Page
  • How Lou started Rosenfeld Media, the UX book publishing company
  • The story of the blind men and the elephant and how it applies to building a great user experience
  • DesignOps, ResearchOps and how Lou began major conferences around those topics
  • Lou’s advice for those of us working in large organizations doing UX design

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