Choosing the right method in UX research can be confusing because it has to be tailored to your specific product and rely on your unique organizational goals.
Each research method has its own unique strengths and weaknesses, but being able to identify the best one to apply to your case is the key to UX research success.
Therefore, it is critical to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular UX research methods and clearly understand the application possibilities and constraints, considering which might make the difference in the choice of one over the other.
Let’s walk you through some of the most common UX research methods to make choosing your option easier.
The different UX research methods each have their own strengths and limitations, and selecting the right method is essential for gaining meaningful insights. Here are the most popular UX research methods:
The existence of various research methods could confuse you about which method is best suited for your specific situation.
However, accessing the strengths and limitations of each method might help in identifying your preferences, while experience with all of them might give an additional advantage in understanding the best fit — trying and learning from mistakes is the way to perfection.
When it comes to conducting UX research, the method you choose will depend on the stage of the design process you’re in and what you want to know. It’s important to conduct research first to understand how your product will meet your audience’s needs before testing its effectiveness.
While all research methods have value, it’s often better to observe users’ behavior to discover their needs rather than ask them outright. You’ll also need to decide if what people think and believe or what they do with the product is more relevant to your question. It should also be noted that quantitative research typically assesses success, while qualitative research determines thoughts and motivations.
Once you’ve determined the type of research needed, consider the product’s context in your question to narrow your focus.
However, factors like cost, time, and resources may impact your choice of research method. UX researchers also need to stay in contact with business stakeholders to ensure that research aligns with business goals. Ultimately, the right researcher can make or break a study.
If you have a small budget, consider starting with a small usability test with five users. If you have a short timeline, conduct an expert review and plan for a usability test in the next phase of development. At any stage in development, consider conducting one or more small usability tests and building improvements into the product as you iterate product design and testing throughout the development cycle.
While I already mentioned a lot of research methods, now it is time to get some insights into the best practices and grasp the feeling of how a successful application looks like in real-life scenarios.
An example of a practical application A/B testing is Spotify, which used this method to determine that users preferred a tab bar instead of the standard three-line menu icon on their mobile app. This resulted in a better user experience and decreased subscription churn, making it clear how A/B testing can have a significant impact on businesses.
Another user research strategy is usability testing, which produces both qualitative and quantitative data. The data gathered from usability testing can be applied in various ways depending on the type of testing and desired outcomes. I mentioned it more than others, as it seems that a lot of great companies constantly use some kind of usability testing to improve their performance.
For example,the world’s largest airline Ryanair’s official website utilized usability testing to increase improve the UX metrics of the website and create a better experience for clients, refreshing its look according to 21st-century expectations. The continuous work of more than 200 employees and an additional large group of testers provided the result that helped the company to stay on top of the airline industry as the website started not to just look better, but to work faster, attracting more clients. Hence, such work has to be ongoing as trends shift while the company has to stay on top of the competition, providing only the best for its clients. Therefore, major companies concentrate on continuous usability testing to increase sales.
An important note here would be that for specific product types, such as an ecommerce website or medical device, there are recommended research methods. When seeking responses from a large number of respondents, consider using a survey delivered electronically via a link or survey platform. On the other hand, if the website or app focuses on experience rather than usability, the chosen research method will usually go with interviews or surveys.
For example, some gaming apps might work just fine, but the visual aspects and music are just not enjoyable for the users, and the only way to grasp such feedback is to access qualitative responses from users in one way or another.
Recruiting participants for low-cost UX research can be challenging, but there are ways to make it easier. A free 190-page report from the Nielsen Norman Group offers guidelines on how to set up and manage a recruiting program.
You can also use online tools like Doodle to sync schedules and Zoom, Google Hangouts, or Skype to conduct remote interviews, reducing the time it takes to organize multiple in-person interviews. While remote interviews may not provide as much data as other research methods, they can be useful in discovering usability issues and gauging user interaction with these issues.
It is important to ensure that your tested audience’s demographic is diverse and that you prepare by gathering adequate resources and background information. This can help you answer any questions your UX team may have and avoid bias and possible negative feedback from one demographic that you missed during the UX research.
One-on-one interviews can be beneficial because they allow you to focus on specific issues and go in-depth. This eliminates the risk of “groupthink” that can occur in focus groups, for example.
Developing a research protocol can help you stay organized and focused during your user research. This protocol should include tasks you want your participants to do, how much time you’ve set aside for the session, a script or description that you can use for every session, and your process for recording the interviews and looking after participant data.
Analytics tools can also provide valuable quantitative data for your user research. Free tools like Google Analytics and low-cost tools like LogRocket can help you answer questions such as how long it takes for users to complete a task, where they click, how far they scroll, what features are most popular, what paths people usually take, and when they leave.
However, it’s important to pair this raw data with real qualitative user research for insight. Plan ahead and collect useful, properly structured raw data that can be analyzed with as little effort as possible.
In conclusion, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of different UX research methods is crucial for creating effective user-centered designs. Interviews, field studies, focus groups, diary studies, surveys, usability testing, five-second testing, and A/B testing each offer unique insights into user behavior and preferences. When selecting a method, it’s important to consider factors, such as the research goals, target audience, and available resources.
To conduct effective UX research, recruiting diverse and representative participants, developing a research protocol, and utilizing analytical tools are all key factors.
Overall, incorporating UX research into the design process can lead to more satisfying user experiences, and choosing the most appropriate method can make all the difference.
Header image source: IconScout
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