An informed and detailed UX approach is a vital step in the product design process. UX research helps designers figure out how users interact with your product and how to build a seamless user experience.
This article will introduce some of the most lucrative research methods used to inform designers on how they can improve the experience and usability of their products.
What is UX Research?
UX stands for user experience and it defines the process designers use to create products that resonate with users. The principles of UX design include creating protects that understand the needs of your target audience and deliver a straightforward user experience whilst maximizing utility.
UX Research is the study of your users and how your product reaches their requirements and goals for the service. Effective UX research allows designers to gain valuable insights into exactly what users need from your product.
The aim is to create useful and more valuable designs that meet the specific needs of your target audience.
There are two types of UX Research:
Qualitative Research: This includes research methods like user interviews and field studies. Through this type of research, designers gain an in-depth understanding of a user’s thought-process, emotions and concerns.
Qualitative user research often answers the ‘Why?’ behind user behavior. This type of research gathers observational information and opinions and is especially valuable at the exploration and ideation phase of the design process.
Quantitative Research: Quantitative studies takes a more structured approach to gathering measurable data about your user’s behavior and experience. Methods include surveys and analytics. Quantitative user research uses numerical data to test and eliminate biases gathered in qualitative research.
Quantitative UX testing answers exactly what users do when interacting with your product.
Here are some common user experience research methods used to inform and improve the design of products.
Also known as split testing, A/B testing is a randomized experiment where equal groups of users are shown one of two versions of a product. Then, the metrics between each version are measured (for example click rates or conversions).
This method is used to test variations between designs and see how well they perform. A/B tests allow designers to make small changes and gather insights on how it affects their site or app’s performance.
Card sorting is a research method that involves asking users to organize keywords and information into groups. In card sorting sessions, users are given a set of labels and are asked to sort them into categories. This helps designers understand how users expect information to be structured.
There are two main variants of card sorting: open and closed.
In open card sorting, users are asked to sort the ideas into groups of their own without pre-defined categories. Whereas with closed card sorting, users sort the cards into pre-defined categories.
Contextual interviews involve observing users as they work in their own environment. Unlike other interview types like usability testing, users aren’t set tasks and instead the focus is on how users naturally work and how they would use your product.
These interviews can be conducted by visiting users in their place of work or at home. But most contextual interviews are carried out using screen-sharing and video conferencing software.
This method is well-suited for early discovery stages so designers can identify the common problems their target audience faces. As this inquiry takes place in your user’s natural environment, contextual interviews aim to be more realistic than other types of interviews.
Click tests aim to determine where users would click on your product’s interface to complete their intended actions. Users are given a website, screenshot, prototype or wireframe of a product and are asked where they would click to access the information they need or complete a task.
For example, a test could ask “Where would you click to purchase this product?”. The position of the user’s click is then recorded along with how long it took for them to decide.
Click testing creates a heatmap of where users naturally look for information. This allows designers to make the experience of using a product far more intuitive.
Prototyping involves making a simulation, mockup or concept of your final product. This allows designers to have a visualization in which to tweak the appearance and functionality of the design.
There are many ways to create prototypes. The method you choose will likely depend on how far you are into the product design process.
For example, a paper prototype is a rudimentary sketch of the website or app suitable for the first ideation stages. Digital prototypes are perfect for later stages and give a more accurate representation of the product.
Prototypes can be shown to testers for feedback. With advanced prototyping tools, the mockup can be amended based on user feedback.
System Usability Scale (SUS)
Using the system usability scale questionnaire gives designers insightful user ratings of how well users can use your product. The SUS questionnaire involves answering ten questions with a five-point scale from strongly agree to strongly disagree.
The questions are as follows:
- I think that I would like to use this system frequently.
- I found the system unnecessarily complex.
- I thought the system was easy to use.
- I think that I would need the support of a technical person to be able to use this system.
- I found the various functions in this system were well integrated.
- I thought there was too much inconsistency in this system.
- I would imagine that most people would learn to use this system very quickly.
- I found the system very cumbersome to use.
- I felt very confident using the system.
- I needed to learn a lot of things before I could get going with this system.
Then, from the answers to those questions, designers are given a SUS score.
The system usability scale can seem complicated to some users but is a great way to quantify how easy users find the product to use.
With usability tests, a panel of representative users will try to complete pre-set tasks and then provide feedback on their experience. With in-person usability tests, observers will watch the user as they use the product. With remote usability testing, users are encouraged to ‘think out loud’ while their screens are recorded.
This type of user experience testing helps designers understand how users would naturally use products. Observing the tester reveals any small annoyances or usability problems in your design. Usability tests also provide opportunities for designers to learn about user behavior.
Usability tests are conducted on live websites or functional prototypes. They differ from contextual interviews as users are given specific tasks to complete. Remote usability tests can be moderated or unmoderated. With moderated tests, the participant is joined by an observer over video conferencing. Moderated tests best mimic in-person usability tests and allow observers to have conversations with the tester.
With unmoderated tests, testers usually record their testing flow using a screen recorder and follow off-line text instructions. Unmoderated tests are far cheaper but lose out on the opportunity for observers to ask questions or improvise during a test.
Reasons for Doing UX Research
Effective user experience research is vital for your product’s success. It helps designers develop a product that perfectly matches your user’s needs.
Many people incorrectly believe that UX research is only useful at the end of the design process to tweak a working product. However, using research methods to understand your user’s problems is incredibly important in the early development stages.
Methods like contextual interviews help you identify the problems your target audience is facing. This helps designers craft their early designs to better solve those problems. Showing prototypes to testers and gathering feedback allows designers to develop an intuitive product early on.
Other reasons for investing in user experience research through the design process include:
- To create designs that are aesthetically pleasing to most users
- To understand how users want their information to be structured using card sorting.
- To understand the *Return on Investment *(ROI) of your product design.
- Helps refine your target audience and identify early adopters.
Without a keen knowledge of your product’s usability, you risk releasing a final website or app that is frustrating and difficult to use.
UX research doesn’t stop at the initial launch of the product either. For every design change or update, designers must extensively test the user experience. Any UX issues can hurt your user’s satisfaction and could turn customers away from your product.
Great UX research can help you build a memorable and enjoyable user experience for your customers.