User Research Aug 18, 2019

What is User Research?

What is User Research?
User Research Aug 18, 2019

The major factor that affects your product's overall success is the experience it provides to your users. While using your product, do the users:

  •  like the design?
  • face any issue while searching or navigating?
  • feel that the UI is easy to use?
  • face problems due to particular elements in the UI?

Such questions can be answered with certainty by User Research.

In this article, we are going to explore more about User Research: what the term itself means, the types of user research and a short description of the methods used in user research. So let’s start one by one

What is User Research?

As Mike Kuniaysky(A UX designer, researcher, and author) puts it, user research is:

The process of understanding the impact of design on an audience.

User research is used to learn more about the user’s needs, experience, and motivation through various qualitative and quantitative methods and to initiate the process of solving the problems they are facing.

You may be building a new product or trying to improve an existing one because you realized that customers are facing UX problems. These are incredible opportunities to give your users a chance to disclose to you how they feel about your product. To improve the quality of your product you need to consider all the problems, major or minor, that your users are facing.

Types of User Research

There are two types of User Research:

  • Quantitative Research
  • Qualitative Research

Depending on the type of questions you want to be answered, you can decide which approach you want to select:

1. Quantitative research: This approach is suitable for answering the “How many” and “How much” types of questions. For example, if you want to compare different designs to find out which one will impact better.

Quantitative research provides better answers instead of results generated from video analysis or graphs. It can help you make decisions like how a single costly change in your product can impact on its usability. Here are some quantitative user research methods:

A/B Testing: This approach is used to find out which UI design will work better with the users if a product has multiple UI design options. In this testing, you test with two different UI live versions of the same product.

You show each version to a different segment of users at the same time. Based on the conversion rate each segment draws, the test results in determining which version performed better for that product.

For example, If you want to create a signup form for your website but you are confused between two designs that:

use a pop-up, which immediately allows users to fill the form to sign up.

directs users to a new page where they can fill the form and redirect back to the previous page to login now.

Such confusion can be solved using A/B testing.

Card Sorting: When you are confused about what information structure(design organizing, structuring, and labeling content) to use within your product for it to be more understandable to the users, then card sorting comes into the picture.

In this type of testing a user is asked to group or label some items in a way that makes sense to them. This reveals the thinking process of your users. The information structure which is selected by most of the users is considered more logical and can be used in the product.

Surveys: Surveys can be conducted for your product, via email or after the usability test. This is the most flexible research method which can be combined with any other method.

You can ask multiple-choice questions, ratings, open responses, etc within a survey. Survey results can be used in generating graphs or finding where your product stood.

Tree Testing: Tree testing is conducted to measure the accuracy of your product’s menu. It is a test of whether a user can find a particular item through your menu hierarchy or not.

In this type of testing, you provide menu options to the user in the form of a tree structure and ask them to find items in this menu via predefined tasks. The end goal of the testing is to find out which path is most opted by the users and is it the same as the path that you are using.

Eyetracking: It uses special equipment to track the user’s eyes when they use your product. The section which gets the highest user attention is the area that is most attractive within your product. This area can be used to list out the important details.

2. Qualitative research: This research method is used to answer Why and How kind of questions. This type of research gives you a deeper understanding of the logical thinking of users.

In this research method, the result depends more on the questions you have asked your participants rather than the number of responses. In qualitative research, we get to know more about how Your product looks like from the user's point of view.

Here listed some qualitative research techniques -

Interviews: Interviews can be done face to face or via video calling. In interviews, you ask your participants some relevant questions regarding your product.

For example, what problems are they facing? does the navigation work fine, how good or bad the information structure used within the product is, etc.

Some precautions are needed to be taken while conducting user interviews. For example, if you ask a biased question that affects the participants’ answers then that will never allow participants to present their own thoughts instead they will be proceeding with yours.

Contextual Inquiry: In this method the researcher observes a participant doing the task related to their product, it is also called a site visit. For example, if you provide an e-commerce product then you will need to observe your participant ordering an item. In this exercise you are allowed to ask questions to the participants such as why did they click on a particular option or how would they do a certain task, etc.

Usability test: This is a widely used testing method among qualitative research. In this, you provide a list of tasks to your participants and ask them to do those tasks on your product.

You can observe your participant either physically, can provide answers to their queries and also can guide your participants through each task, which is called Moderated user testing, or you can use a tool to record the participant’s response in their own environment without a facilitator present, which is called Unmoderated user testing. With this method, you tend to find the unspoken problems which can never be found by your design or development team.

Focus Groups: It is a collection of 3-10 participants who are invited to discuss on a particular topic related to your product. It allows cross-questioning between the members of the group to generate a verified solution.

Different Focus Group studies are conducted with the same topic regularly so that they will be able to produce more accurate results.

User research helps you a lot to understand how people perform tasks and achieve goals that are important to them. It also gives you a context on where your product is lacking and what are the areas that require improvement.

User Research can be conducted at the stage of product development but the ideal time to conduct user research is before starting the actual development of the product, it will save a lot of time and resources for the future.

Check out UXArmy’s online usability testing platform for your user research. With audio and video recording capabilities and reports containing useful metrics such as Heatmaps, mouse path and more for your tests to help gain more insights into your product’s usability issues.

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