Having studied research at university I didn’t fully grasp the importance of it. I took all that knowledge for granted, and also didn’t quite know where I’d apply it later on in my job. Working as a UX designer today, I learned how important the role of research is in our daily practice, and want to share my knowledge with fellow designers who don’t know how to start making research for UX.
Which information is missing? 🤔
First of all: To know what kind of research you need to do, you need to know which information you are missing to create a kick-ass user experience. Knowing that you can pick a research method and start collecting data to answer all your questions and get the info you need!
Do you need to know how people plan their museum visit? Or who these people are? Or maybe what they dislike about current museum pages? Make sure, you know what you want your research for.
Better done than perfect ⌛
It’s always better to reach out to potential and current users in a quick DIY way than not reaching out because you don’t consider yourself a research expert.
„A surprisingly large number of people claim to practice user-centered design, but fail to ever actually speak with or spend time with users“.
User Experience Team of One
It’s always good to talk to people you design things for — no matter how experienced you are as a UX designer. It’s important to remember that other people probably think differently from you, know different things/don’t know the same things as you, and probably use the internet differently.
Two kinds of research ☯ ️
- Open-ended (qualitative): questions that require an individual answer, which is longer than a word. “Why” and “How” questions are great for that. You can ask those open-ended questions in person or in an online survey. Qualitative research is necessary to get to know the scope of the problem, hear different approaches and opinions.
- Quantitative: Participants pick one (or several) answers from a range of options. Here you want to find out, which of the 100 things that were mentioned during qualitative research are important for most of your users. The questions should ask “who”, “what”, “when” — find more on how to write great quantitative questions here.
10 DIY research options 🖐️🖐️
In this article, I want to give you a quick overview of easy ways to get some insight into what the people you design for need, want and experience — and how they use your products or products alike.
1. Watch people use the product/page — Observation
If you want to redesign an existing page, a great way to understand its pain points is to watch some people navigating through it. We are not talking about hours and hours of observations in a perfect lab with people who are a 100% fit to the customer profile.
A quick test with a random person during a workshop for only 15 minutes will give astonishing insights — and show your stakeholders, how much needs to get done, and how important research is for a project. This kind of DIY research can be done with your existing product/page/app or a competitor’s page.
Similar to a usability test (point 10), but a little smaller.
2. Get many opinions that you can compare — Online Survey
A quantitative online survey is a great option if you have easy access to potential or current customers/users/visitors online. Only around 1–3% of people who’ll see the survey are going to participate. To get reliable results from the survey, you want to have at least 200 participants.
3. Get some opinions that you can compare — In-person surveys
Often you won’t have access to a big group of people, but still want to get insights into their way of thinking, their needs and current ways to do things. A survey in person can consist of the same questions, like an online questionnaire, so “What”, “When”, “Where”-Questions. The difference is, that you can ask those questions in person — face-to-face, via phone, email or chat.
4. Analyze existing data — Online reviews & groups
Sometimes you can find online reviews about your product or some similar one online, on review pages or Facebook groups. Here you can see what people complain about, what they love about the product/service and what they wish was different.
5. Talk to people who know your customers — Expert interview
Talk to support service, people who are directly in touch with the users/customers and ask them about their experience. What is often misunderstood? What are common questions and pain points? Which are the most common reasons to reach out to the support service? Which information seems unclear?
6. Talk to potential/current customers — Personal interview
Your personal interview of a user/customer can be extremely open and just directed towards understanding their way of thinking and acting — more on that in the book Practical Empathy.
Or you can already have concrete questions you want to ask, for example how they pick a product/service or what are their pain points and wishes for a specific part of their life, etc.
The most important tip for personal interviews is: Listen, give time to think (60sek+), don’t suggest answers or finish their sentences.
7. Qualitative online survey
This method is a little time-consuming but is a great way to find out many individual approaches to something, if you don’t have time, resources or access to meeting the people in person.
In this case, you write a questionnaire consisting of open-ended questions and send it to relevant people. With only 5–6 open questions you will get a great variety of responses, and need to combine similar answers together to know a whole range or different approaches to your question.
8. Use existing data
Understand who is the target audience using Google Analytics Research, Market Research Results, benchmark analysis or other surveys your company/your client’s company has done. You’ll be able to find out the demographic data as well as some behavioral patterns and preferences in that way already.
9. Go where your users are
Talk to people in public places — depending on the product/service you might find your target audience in a coffee shop, grocery store or waiting in line into the opera house. Or ask your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances if they know somebody you are looking for. Get to know what’s driving them, the way they think. Or just tell them you are working on a project in that area, and hear what topic they come up with. Do they give you tips, complain or try to help? That’s already a great insight itself.
10. Usability tests
This type of research is the most commonly mentioned when talking about research for UX designers.
With the help of usability research, you can test if your design solves the user issues by watching people interact with your prototype.
„Usability tests are about watching one person at a time try to use something (whether it’s a Web site, a prototype, or some sketches of a new design) to do typical tasks so you can detect and fix the things that confuse or frustrate them.“ (Don’t Make Me Think, p. 110)
Some overall tips 🌟
- Ask about past/current events: Don’t ask generic questions like „What do you eat for dinner usually?“ It’s easier for participants to recall (and for you to get useful data) if you ask specifically ”What did you have for dinner for the past seven days?“
- Compensation for interviewees and their time helping you is important!
- Explain what’s going to happen before an interview, observation or chit-chat, what you are interested and why
- Make it clear to your clients, that investing some thousands for research is essential to create a fantastic user experience. Their ideas for the website/app/service won’t be able to replace talking to their audience directly to make it truly user-centered
I hope this small overview helped you to get the first idea about the research you can do as a UX designer. Let me know if you have some questions and stay tuned as I will write more detailed articles on parts mentioned here.
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