UX Research & Methodologies
UX Research is essentially an important aspect of User Experience Design, learning everything you can about your users, target market, or audience. It can help identify and disprove assumptions, improve our understanding and validate our decision making.
Research shows us who someone is and in what context they will use a service or product. When you’re just starting out, UX research is focused on learning about project requirements and the needs/goals of your end users. This is done by conducting interviews, collecting surveys, observing current users and reviewing any existing data. When a product or service already exists, UX research is about usability and whether the exchange is a positive experience.
In the process UX researchers hope to discover patterns and glean insights that might have otherwise been missed, and harness that data when designing or iterating.
UX Research Method Types
Quantitative & Qualitative
Quantitative methods are generally anything that is quantifiable, or anything you can reduce to a number. Examples include: percentages of users, page views, x number of clicks. Analytics, A/B testings and survey data is generally quantitative, and performs best with large data sets.
Qualitative methods fall on the other side of the spectrum and engage soft skills and empathy. Researchers engage with users and dig into their feelings, attitudes and emotions. Qualitative research can give insight as to why users are doing the actions they are, not just the number of users who have done it.
Generative & Evaluative
Depending on the stage of your project, your research will be starting with no data and working toward the release of a digital product or performing tests on a product that already exists. Generative research is working toward the initial concept and ideation of a project, whereas the evaluative research is evaluating a product that already exists to understand, iterate on and optimize the user experience further.
Attitudinal & Behavioural
Attitudinal research is about seeking out opinions on products or services. How does your user feel about the interaction? This is more important in some cases than others. In certain situations, it’s better to know how and what your users think. In other cases, it’s more important what users are doing.
Common Methodologies for UX Research
In a typical question and answer interview, a researcher will ask questions to a number of users. Interviewing large groups of people and comparing their various experiences can yield important insights. There are structured and unstructured interview methods, the former is when a set of interview questions are predetermined, while the latter is more free form and less direct.
Surveys & Questionnaires
Surveys and Questionnaires are an effective way of gathering a large amount of information about a group, while spending limited time and resources. There are excellent tools on the web like HotJar, Survey Monkey and Survata, to help you create a custom survey that you can send to an audience you define such as a subset of our users. You can add multiple-choice, text fields, photos, star ratings and more.
Card sorts are often done in conjunction with information architecture to determine the organization of a site map or complex navigation. It involves using a set of cards (think blank queue cards) that can be written on and rearranged as users find ways to categorize them. They can be arranged underneath predetermined categories, or completely free form organization.
Moderated or Unmoderated Usability Tests
The most traditional kind of evaluative research, usability testing can be done in an interview format or performed remotely, via skype or prerecorded video. Tools like HotJar, Usabilityhub and Usertesting.com are good examples of these resources, they are available on a subscription fee or flat rate payment plan. It allows to gather data effectively but one step removed from your user.
In contrast to pre-recorded or surveys is this direct and engaged method of testing, done out in the community. Interviewees are found wherever users are found (Coffee shops, public transit stations, walking down the street) and are asked to complete certain tasks on their devices in exchange for a coffee or giftcard.
One effective way to test the performance of elements on a site or device is to perform A/B Tests, also known as split testing. Essentially pitting two variants of a design against each other and seeing which one performs better in terms of desired outcome. This conversion rate can be quantifiably measured and recreated permanently on the site or product.
UX Research Analysis
Finally, research on its own is valuable but in order to use these insights effectively, this information must be analyzed and presented to the larger team.
Identifying patterns, and creating proposals for solutions and alternatives is a key component of research data gathering. You can provide the numbers in graphs and stats, or create user personas that accurately represent your users. Research won’t do any good if it’s locked away in a file folder, lost or forgotten. It’s only valuable if studied and shared.