How to choose the right UX research method to step up your business game
Delivering a good user experience is becoming a popular topic in all business areas, because both smaller and bigger companies are starting to understand that satisfied customers are the main reason why their businesses thrive. And to ensure this user satisfaction, a UX research method has to be chosen and conducted correctly.
So to become user-focused, companies have to conduct user research. But first, it is important to be able to differentiate which research method is relevant in which situation. This article will show you the way through the research process from research objectives definition to research methods choice, which will help you to understand your situation and discover the hidden user needs.
What is UX research and why you should care
Behind every design decision you make there should be supporting data to back it up. It is simply because you are not your user. You are not your customer. You might know who your target audience is, but without proper research you will never understand their needs. UX research enables you to create designs that are valuable to people, easy to understand and efficient to use.
Many people running a business think that the research is just extra work while others build up a whole new team within a company for conducting the research and analysing its results iteratively. They understand that through research and user testing they gain valuable data about their business that no one can have.
How a UX research process looks like
Remember that UX research is an iterative process which means that you research, analyze, create and test until you and your users are satisfied with the end result. It can be done at any time and repeated again and again.
1. Define objectives
In this stage you‘ll have to identify a few things:
- Where are you at the moment — are you just starting a new project or is it already running? Are there any problems that your website seems to be facing at the moment?
- Who your users are and what do you know about them? Personas and Empathy maps are great tools to do so.
- Where do you want your business to go? What would indicate that you are moving forward?
Tip: Use the “5W and 1H” structure to frame your questions. Who, What, When, Where, Why and How does someone use your product or service?
2. Form a hypothesis
After you frame your objectives, your mind will be flooded with new ideas and solutions. You will have certain assumptions about what the outcome of the research will be. Before you jump into conclusions, write down the hypothesis to ensure the claim you are going to confirm or refute by the research.
When creating Design problem statements, you can take your 5W and 1H to form a hypothesis, for example:
“Our (who) has the problem that (what) when (where). Our solution should deliver (why).”
e.g. Concept of a website selling smartphones:
“Our (future first-time smartphone owner) has the problem that (he is not able to understand which smartphone is the best for him) when (he is browsing our website). Our solution should deliver (a creative way for him to find clear information about smartphones and possibility to compare different devices on the same website.)”
3. Choose research methods
As you can see in the image below, there are 2 main research methods — qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative research is human-centric, focuses on users’ mentality and body language which is great for creating more personalized solutions, whereas qualitative research is business-centric and is supported by abstract data in large quantities, which is useful for making predictions.
Research methods which are combination of qualitative and quantitative data are called Mixed methods.
1.Analytics are nowadays essential for every website and should be used at all times. Analytics have to be manually added into your website code in order to work.
It is a tool that tracks and stores information about visitors (demographics, user behavior, etc.) and also monitors the technical performance of the website (load time, etc.)
2.Heat Maps are one of my favorite tools ever. For example, if you are struggling with a high bounce rate that analytics showed you, here you can see why and when exactly are visitors leaving.
Believe it or not, you can record the whole session of a visitor coming to your website. You are able to see real examples of user sessions on your own website. You can play, pause, reverse and analyze. You will see where the user got lost, frustrated or excited. I believe it is one of the greatest tools to empathize with users and understand the errors that your website contains.
1.Think Aloud Test is one of the most effective usability testing methods of the website where users are given a task and asked to express every single thought and step they make, describing it aloud. You will listen to them and observe their behavior. It is recommended to record this session on video (as sometimes the body language speaks differently) and take notes at the same time.
2. 1-on-1 Interviews are a great tool for a researcher to learn more about the subject of a project and enrich the contextual study. Respondents who fit into the target group help us understand their real experiences and opinions towards the certain topic.
Before forming the questions, it is important to set the goal to be reached by conducting the interview. Questions can then revolve around their experience, mentality and behavior, or about the usage of a system, for example.
Tip: Avoid questions that lead to Yes/No answers and questions that would influence respondents’ opinions. Whatmore, always let the respondents finish their thoughts and be aware that it is okay to ask more relevant questions throughout the interview even though they are not in the script.
3. Focus group interviews differ from interviews in a way that respondents are able to discuss the questions in a group of around 4–8 people together. They often come with more detailed answers and are confident to share their opinions and their experiences together. The atmosphere tends to be more relaxed, as the “discussion” doesn‘t feel like being interviewed, even though it‘s being recorded for further analysis.
1.Funnel Analysis — “A funnel analysis is a method of understanding the steps required to reach an outcome on a website and how many users get through each of those steps. The set of steps is referred to as a “funnel” because the typical shape visualizing the flow of users is similar to a funnel in your kitchen or garage.” — Restori, M.
2. Surveys are a great tool for collecting an abundant amount of data. If you are not sure about the objectivity of the questions, then you shouldn‘t depend on these responses solely as different respondents might have different perceptions on choices they are being presented with. However, survey data can serve as a good starting point for understanding your users.
3. Usability Testing — testing your product or service from the point of view of your typical user. There are great online tools that help you run your own usability testing in just a few steps. Compared to session recording where you have no power over user‘s behavior, in usability testing you come up with your own tasks for them to accomplish. You will have to recruit real users from your target audience to help you test the website.
4. A/B Testing — Sometimes it is all about details. Even when you come to the point where you are satisfied with your website‘s performance, there might be some small things holding you back from even better results.
A/B Testing allows you to run 2 slightly different versions of your website simultaneously to show you i.e. which button color performs better, or which Call-To-Action command works better.
Do not change more properties at once (i.e. in one A/B session do only different color versions of a button). Otherwise you wouldn‘t be able to analyze which one of them caused the change in behavior.
4. Conduct the research
When the choice is made, the next step is recruiting the users. How many users do you really need? Usually, recruiting 5 users is a good practice, however, there are situations, where you might need more or less:
“For really low-overhead projects, it’s often optimal to test as few as 2 users per study. For some other projects, 8 users — or sometimes even more — might be better. For most projects, however, you should stay with the tried-and-true: 5 users per usability test.” — Nielsen, J., 2012
Then it is time to conduct the research correctly. Each research method has to be approached differently and if the rules are not followed, results might be misleading. Be careful and try not to influence or interrupt users with your opinions while conducting the research or testing.
5. Write a synthesis
After all the data from the research is gathered, it‘s time to analyze it and to see if our assumptions made in the beginning were right. It is important to keep analysis impartial and objective to keep the user‘s point of view.
Answer your research questions, prove or disprove your hypothesis. Try to find a meaning in the information you now possess.
Empathize and brainstorm solutions that need to be applied to the website in case to make it more usable and user-friendly.
Still not sure how to start with UX research?
UX research research can shoot business growth into space when done right. Satisfied users will tell others, will write good reviews and become returning, loyal customers.
In this article we discussed different methods to collect and analyze data and there are even more methods out there. It is quite a lot to process that one might get lost in this sea of opportunities, not even talking about having to make a choice.
Feel free to create an account, start experimenting with our user testing tools today and take your website on another level!