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UX User Research

What is User Research in UX Design?

Within the field of user experience (UX) design, a critical first step to designing an amazing user experience is to undertake user research.

User research is critical because it focuses on the needs, behaviours, and motivations of the users of a product or system. If this product or system is your website or mobile app then the user research phase will go a long way towards making designs relevant to the user that are easy and enjoyable to use.

If you are heading down the path towards developing a new site or app then treat this as your beginners guide to all you need to know about this important phase of UX design.

1. Benefits of User Research

2. Types of User Research

3. Useful deliverables

4. Removing the risk

Benefits of User Research


User Research
Benefits of User Research


There are a lot of benefits to undertaking user research, many of which will provide definition and many of which will save you time and money on your next project. Some of the benefits to user research are:

Better ROI on your investment
  • If you build a website or app that is not useful to your main audience segments then it is a very costly exercise that will lead to either project abandonment or rework. By undertaking user research upfront you have a much greater chance of building a product that people want to use and therefore save yourself money.





Optimise the user experience
  • User research can help define the feature set to include for a new website or app. It can also help refine functional requirements for each of the features to include. The users’ needs, behaviours and goals can greatly help shape features that will be useful to them.

Understand what features are important to your users
  • User research can help define the feature set to include for a new website or app. It can also help refine functional requirements for each of the features to include. The users’ needs, behaviours and goals can greatly help shape features that will be useful to them.

Speed to market
  • Due to the insights and improved definition from user research, design and development phases are more focussed and usually shorter as the team have a far better idea of what they are building.

Get feedback during the design and development phase
  • Usability testing can be used to get valuable design and development feedback from users within the target audiences to ensure you are meeting their needs or to gain insights on what needs to be changed.

Uncover perceptions about your brand
  • By undertaking user research, important information about your brand can be uncovered. Anything from brand perception, insights on communication channels, how well copy is received and so on can be garnered from user research.

Types of User Research


User Research
Types of User Research


When the word research is used in project work some people imagine a long drawn out scientific research period. But, it really isn’t anywhere as intense as that. To demystify user research here is a list of common types of user research and the results they will garner:

User Interviews
  • A common research technique where UX Consultants (usually an interviewer and a note taker) obtain qualitative information from existing or prospective users of a system during one-to-one interviews. Qualitative data is descriptive and does not measure, for example a user may describe how they feel when they use a system or product.

Contextual Enquiry
  • Interviews that occur in a user’s workplace or environment. In this instance, the researcher is observing and listening to a user as they work through tasks. Questions are asked of the user as they navigate a website or app, which garners qualitative information and observations.

Focus Groups
  • A panel of people discussing their thoughts, feelings, attitudes and ideas on a particular subject. A moderator guides the discussion, which is geared to capturing rich qualitative information.

  • Surveys capture quantitative data, geared to measuring things like percentages of people who do a certain thing. Surveys can be used to validate qualitative data. For example, from user interviews you may form an assumption that most people in the user group use iPhones to access the internet when commuting. In this instance, you could then run a survey to quantify the existing results.

Usability Testing
  • One-to-one interviews where a user of a system is asked to perform a series of tasks by an interviewer. The test usually run against a prototype so that feedback can be provided for the current state of the prototype. The project team will either obtain validation that the solution in place is working or will receive feedback for updating the solution.

Useful Deliverables


User Research Persona Template
Useful deliverables in User Research


To harness user research data to benefit a project there are some key deliverables that will put the research into context and how the research can best be used.

  • A representation of a group of users of a product or system that highlight their goals, behaviours, frustrations and typical demographics. Personas are an exceptional tool for designers, marketers and stakeholders for designing systems that are empathic to the needs of the user group. They help put the designer into the shoes of the target audience so that design caters to the users’ needs and goals. I have written an article about personas if you would like to learn more.

Forrester Research has found that organisations who proactively invest in UX & adopt an experience-driven businesses model achieve greater results across every stage of the customer journey.

Customer Journey Maps
  • A diagram that illustrates the multiple steps that a user of a system or product will go through as they engage with it. They are extremely useful in identifying issues with a journey, finding gaps, identifying opportunities, optimising workflow paths and more. I have written an article about customer journey maps if you would like to learn more.

  • An extension of the customer journey map where the story is illustrated in a series of scenes showing the persona having a need, using the product and then achieving their goal. Storyboards help create empathy with the persona by placing the user into a real-world scenario that the designer or stakeholder can identify with.

User Flow
  • A diagrammatic representation of the users flow through a system such as a website or app. They help illustrate the simplicity or complexity of a system and assist in identifying the pages required for the journey of a user.

Usability Testing Report

A detailed report of any usability testing that has taken place on a prototype or system recording things like:
  • Task completion rate.
  • Observations made of the user as they undertook each task.
  • Comments made by the user as they undertook each task.
  • The number of errors recorded for the task.
  • System Usability Scale (SUS) indicating how easy or difficult a task was for the user to complete. The level of difficulty is indicated on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is considered easy and 5 is considered difficult.
  • A summary of findings for each task.
  • Recommendations for updates required to the system.

Removing the Risk


The Benefits of User Research


User Research takes the guess work out of designing and makes it an informed and iterative process where data is fed into the design process and validated after designs have been updated. Designs should never be based on assumptions, but introducing research and testing into the mix will greatly increase the likelihood of design a solution that users need and in turn will make the process efficient and therefore less costly.

If you have an upcoming project and would like to discuss how user research can be of great benefit then please contact us for a complimentary UX discovery meeting.






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