User Research

User Research

User research is an integral part of the design process. It is a skill that all UX designers should endeavor to learn and have in their armoire if they are to fulfill their duties and obligations properly. That is to say, it is a skill that is essential to designing great user experiences.

User research basically refers to a process by which UX designers seek to understand the needs, behaviors, experience, inspirations, and so on of the end users of their products. This is in an attempt to create better products that will help fulfill these end users’ needs. It involves the use of several processes both qualitative and quantitative, which will lead to the development of insights into what challenges the end user is facing, which will then inform the steps that will be taken to help them overcome these challenges.

In other words: user research is a means by which UX designers can gauge what effect their design will have on their intended audience.

Qualitative and Quantitative Processes of User Research

The qualitative process referred to here is used to gather qualitative data, which gives insight into people’s perceptions. In other words, into how people think, feel, and see. Conducting qualitative research will help the UX designer gain insight into the opinions, motivations and such of their end users. The quantitative process, on the other hand, refers to the process by which quantitative data is gathered. In other word, it is the methodology by which numeric data is gathered on user’s behavior and opinion.

While some UX designers solely rely on the qualitative process (or on the quantitative process) to conduct their user research, most do not. This is because combining both methodologies will help a designer pinpoint user psychology more accurately than when just one type of methodology is used.

The Importance of User Research

As has been mentioned, user research is a crucial part of the design process. There are several reasons for this, including the fact that it helps put a design project into context. That is to say:

  • It helps the designer empathize with, and understand the product’s end user
  • It helps the designer understand the problem he is seeking to solve
  • It helps the designer understand how the end user will seek to use his product
  • It helps the designer understand what exactly it is the end user requires, and how he can fulfill that need

All of these will then lead to the designer doing the following.

  • Designing better, useful, and relevant products that actually fulfill the users’ needs
  • Saving time and money by ensuring that there won’t be a need to design a product from scratch if perchance the original product doesn’t resonate with the end users
  • It helps determine what the return on investment of a particular product is

Types of User Research

While there are basically two different categories of user research, several types exist under them. These are listed below.

Qualitative

The following are qualitative user research
  • Guerilla testing
  • Interviews
  • User focus groups
  • Field studies
  • Card sorting
  • In-lab testing

Quantitative

The following are quantitative user research
  • User surveys
  • Web analytics
  • A/B testing
  • First click testing
  • Heatmapping
  • Eye tracking
User research should be conducted both at the beginning of a design project, and even during that design project. It is essential if a product is to be successful and accepted by the intended audience.

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