A good user experience is a guarantee for a good product, and in order to achieve a good design of user experience, any product design process begins with understanding all aspects of the product, including the field and organization in which the product exists, its competitors and its users.
Before UX researchers begin to research, they must first formulate the research question that will guide the type of research they will choose.
Depending on the research question, the UX researchers will adapt the type of research that will answer the questions in the most comprehensive way. Sometimes, to answer one question, several different types of research will be added to establish information in depth.
UX researchers encounter different and very diverse worlds of information and before each project they must create a deep knowledge base on the subject. To do this, they will use different tools, including interviews with the people of the organization they work for, but also with external parties, such as their contacts or other parties in the field as far as possible. A review in search engines and literature reviews are also tools that can be used to get to know the world of content, and here researchers are required to have in-depth literacy skills.
In order to create an understanding of the field but also to deepen the scope of the work or its focus, one must understand the organization with which the researchers work. In this rule, a basic understanding of the hierarchy of roles and the nature of work in the organization is required. Mostly the researchers will ask from the client which they are working with their competitors, partners and inspirations.
Market and competitor studies are designed to provide researchers and product people with an understanding of what is happening in the field beyond understanding the field itself – the conventions used today and to which the users are accustomed, conceptual tools from which inspiration can be drawn, etc.
User research or “product research” will try to get to the bottom of the way the product is used that interests the designer, whether it exists and needs to be improved considering the current and possible users, or whether it needs to be created from scratch while understanding the potential users.
Quantitative vs qualitative
It is possible to first divide the forms of research into quantitative and qualitative research which together make it possible to establish information in a thicker form (Thick data). Quantitative research examines the world of investigation with objective tools and with minimal dependence on the research operator, and it will provide answers to questions such as “What do the users do?”. The data in this method is measured numerically based on facts and evidence, and the results are examined with statistical tools (such as: descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, regression, variance analysis, recommendation systems, data mining, etc.), so this form of investigation benefits from the ability to provide information that is less subject to interpretation and usually neutralize external influences.
Quantitative tools for example:
But quantitative measurement does not provide us with the full picture of the behavior or attitudes of the potential users of the product, and if we rely on it alone we may miss the deep insights that quantitative research brings. Quantitative research tries to reach a deep understanding of human behavior, and its reasons with tools that require interpretation of the research results. This is research that helps to understand with “softer” tools the question of “why” users behaved in a certain way. Why, for example, did they not notice the element or what else was noticed on the screen.
Qualitative tools for example:
Some of these studies also make it possible to get closer to the real world situation in which the user will use the product and provide reliable results in this respect, but are more prone to the researcher’s interpretation and hence the importance of the background and previous experience of the test operator and his ability to create a neutral measurement environment and draw objective conclusions as much as possible.
In a way that may surprise those who are not used to research methods, a position towards a product does not guarantee a certain behavior towards it, even if one affects the other, and there is room to examine separately what subjects think and how they will actually behave. Research examining behavior will examine the angle of “what” the users are doing. Research that examines attitudes will try to ask the question of “why” by getting to the feelings and emotions that the interface evokes in them. The types of research and their nature will be determined accordingly.
There are different types of qualitative and quantitative studies, we will focus on a few main ones:
Usability studies – remotely or closely
The purpose of “usability research” is to allow the researcher to see the users in action and to draw conclusions with quantitative and qualitative tools in the closest way to the real use that the users of the product have, or will have. In such a study, the researcher will allow the subjects access to a controlled environment of the interface (real or a prototype that simulates the system) and will ask the subject to perform a task. The researcher will collect data on usage either through observing behavior or through objective collection tools. At points decided by the researcher, he can question the subject in order to deepen the understanding of what was observed in the study.
A usability study can be carried out when the researcher is present in the room with the subject and control the degree of his involvement in the procedure, so that his presence will be effective for obtaining data, but will not interfere with the course of the experiment. A notable advantage of this form of experiment is the ability to see everything around the subject, such as his work environment (if the experiment is carried out there), his body language and so on. But it is also possible to perform such an experiment remotely in a way that makes it possible to record the interface screen, and also to perform more experiments easily, and allow subjects to Kim to participate and stay in their work environment.
A tab sorting study is a qualitative study whose purpose is to provide the researcher with a better understanding of the way the information is arranged in the thinking of the users of the interface and to conclude on the hierarchical way in which the information should be organized. In this type of research, users or potential users will receive a list of topics on cards and will be asked to sort them into categories while the researcher examines the reasons for the catalog. Such a study can be done before a system exists or a similar “tree study” can be done on the menus that exist in the system. Here, too, it is possible to decide to carry out the research with analog tools and up close or to carry it out remotely with digital means and allow recording of the information and digital organization of the results in advance.
The advantages of surveys or in-depth interviews stem from everything detailed above – a survey can be short and go through digital means to many subjects and provide mostly quantitative information sometimes even through one question, for example the NPS index that examines loyalty to a product through the question “How much would you recommend the product to one person” according to a scale of 1-10 usually. In-depth interviews are conducted through dynamic discourse to reveal what usability research would not be able to collect in the absence of broad feedback and it would be able to collect the more complex experiences and feelings of the subjects even if carried out remotely.
These two forms of information collection require the researchers to be skilled in understanding research results.
A good study should be able to present its results in a way that supports the conclusions and is easy to understand. Along with verbal explanations of the result and graphical arrangement of quantitative results, you can also focus on other forms of information collection. Here are some examples:
At the end of the knowledge gathering, mainly through in-depth interviews and questioning of the key people in the company, the researchers can create a description of the “persona” that uses the interface. The goal is to present the common denominators for the types of system users to gain an understanding of their needs, goals and characteristics. For example, are these people with a high digital understanding? What other interfaces do they use? Who do they report to? The level of generalization of such an analysis can vary and provide a general “figure” that only relies on real users or a description of the person representing the user of the system.
To reach an understanding of the subjects and their needs, the researchers can analyze tasks at different levels of complexity. Such an analysis can contain the various tasks of the users and attribute to each the common level of complexity and so on. Such an analysis allows researchers to understand where emphasis should be placed in the system design and to explain why they think it would be right to do so. In such an analysis, it is also possible to provide additional information about the tasks if there is a place for it – the hierarchy between the tasks or additional requirements that each of them has.
In order to gain in-depth insights, it is possible to create user flowa that describe at different levels of depth the operations in the interface in a linear manner and show at each stage what the challenges are for the users. To this, it is possible to add in a relative manner to each pain point and challenge the opportunity that is at its door and clearly present how the problem can be solved.
Any form of research requires the researchers to make sure that the method of collecting the information answered the research question and was carried out in a way that would allow the reproducibility of the results, and especially the ability to trust the conclusions. Research that involves subjects, especially if it seeks to simulate the real situation in the world, is very exposed to various biases that may cast blame on the researcher’s conclusions. Skilled researchers knew how to identify the places more prone to influence and try to create a controlled environment as much as possible, so that it would be possible to rely on the conclusions formulated following their research.
The ability of research to go beyond the confines of the academy into the world of the product allows skilled UX researchers to reach applicable insights according to the need and the various resources available to them. At the same time that research gives us explanations and ideas for solving UX problems, it also provides confidence in the answers and allows researchers to present the design phase of the interface to the client in a way that relies on information that is added to the experience and knowledge of the design and planning people of the interface.
Before UX researchers start research they must act on two levels – formulating the research question according to which they will be able to decide which research setup they will choose, and understanding who the end users of the system are to whom they will turn.
The design team needs to deeply understand the needs, goals, pains and variables acting on the end user of the product. User research methods of various scopes are used to reach these insights at the beginning of the research. So how do UX researchers decide which research to use?
The research questions can be:
The users of the system can be potential or existing users. The researcher must understand whether they are end users, admin level users, whether the system is intended for employees within an organization or for the general public. In direct continuation of this, the research should ask what these users expect to achieve from the system.
With the answers to these questions, they will turn to check which research they will use, taking into account the time and resources available to them. The data will be collected and analyzed to answer the questions the researchers set out with.