UX research in the design process (2/2)

UX research in the design process (2/2)

Anna Tomaka

15 min
UX research in the design process (2/2)

In the previous article about UX research in the design process, I wrote about its essential role in creating digital products. Designers have many proven tools to support them in the research process. In this text, I included basic information about the methods used in UX Research and tips on which plans are worth using at different stages of a product’s life.

Research is an investment in a product that returns in user satisfaction and loyalty. It is worth knowing their assumptions, goals, and limitations. This basic knowledge will allow you to boldly use UX research and thus create functional, engaging, and attractive products while meeting business requirements.

UX research at various stages of the project

UX research can be broken down into many different categories. How they are carried out, the methods used, the type of data provided, or the goal we want to achieve determine the division. We can use the same kinds of research for different purposes and at various stages of product development. Properly selected methods and reliable research will provide designers with valuable information.

UX research takes time and covers many aspects:

  • Selection of the best method for the study.
  • Recruitment of participants and conducting the survey (respondents).
  • Keeping participants’ information secure.
  • Data analysis.
  • Team involvement in research.
  • Converting observations into actions that affect the shape of the product.
  • Tracking and sharing research results.

Due to the purpose of the research, we can distinguish the following types of research:

  • Needs research, used at the stage of analysis and modeling in the initial stages of product development.
  • Evaluation, i.e., methods to verify the designed solutions.
  • Optimization is also used to evaluate solutions, assuming the product has already been implemented.

Both at the stage of needs analysis, evaluation, and optimization, the participation of product users is necessary to talk about a user-oriented process. Different research methods are needed at different stages of product development. The table shows the usefulness of research at various stages of creating a digital product. The multitude and diversity of methods available in designing experiences are worth noting.

The Product Design Team at Synergy Codes

Selected methods in UX research

Various research methods in UX help design teams better understand the preferences and needs of users. A good deal of complement each other, and it is good to use several different methods simultaneously to get the most accurate data and build custom, user-centric solutions. Below, you will find the general characteristics of selected research methods*. The subject of UX research is pervasive, and each technique is material for a separate article. However, this basic information will allow you to understand the differences between the methods and see the benefits of using them in the design process.

The phases of the product development are defined in 7 steps:

  1. Analysis
  2. Modeling
  3. Design 
  4. Evaluation
  5. Implementation
  6. Development
  7. Redesign

An in-depth interview

  • Involves conducting a conversation (1on1 researcher-user) to explore the experiences, needs, expectations, and preferences related to a given product or service. This study provides detailed and in-depth information. An in-depth interview aims to understand the user’s perspective better.
  • Recommended use at the analysis, modeling, evaluation, and redesign phases.

Questionnaire research

  • It involves collecting data by asking structured questions in a questionnaire or survey. These surveys collect user information regarding their preferences, behaviors, needs, and opinions about a product, service, or interaction.
  • It may be used in the analysis, modeling, evaluation, and development phases.

Ethnographic research

  • It focuses on observing users in their natural environment. What people do and what people say are often two completely different things, and ethnographic research allows for a more holistic, contextual understanding of their needs. Through ethnographic research, the researcher gets to know his end user well; he can discover and understand people’s problems and the gaps and opportunities of the product or service.
  • It may be used during the analysis, development, and redesign phases.

Legacy data analysis

  • Involves analyzing existing data, information, or resources related to users, products, or services. Secondary data may include demographic data, user behavior data, previous research results, competitive analysis, sales reports, system usage information, etc. Secondary data analysis aims to understand the context and detect patterns, trends, and anomalies. Secondary data analysis in the context of UX is divided into:

A) Desk research, i.e., secondary analysis of data obtained by another team or for other research purposes

B) Content and content analysis, i.e., classification of available content that was not created for this analysis

  • It may be used in the modeling, design, evaluation, development, and redesign phases.

Card sorting

  • It is a research and interaction design technique where users are asked to sort a set of cards or interface elements according to specific criteria or their preferences. This study aims to understand how users group and organize information and how they perceive the relationships between them. Researchers can use this technique to gather information structure, content hierarchy, labeling, and navigation data to optimize the interface and provide a better user experience. Analyzing card sorting results can help identify patterns, create categories, determine user preferences, and support the design process, allowing content to be organized more intuitively and helpfully.
  • It may be used in the modeling, design, and evaluation phases.

Usability testing

  • It is a research method inviting users to interact with a product, service, or interface to evaluate its usability, effectiveness, and user satisfaction. During usability testing, participants are given specific tasks to perform, and researchers observe and collect data on their interactions, behaviors, difficulties encountered on the road, and user feelings and reactions.
  • It may be used during the evaluation, implementation, development, and redesign phases.

Eye tracking

  • Monitors the user’s eye movement while interacting with a product, service, or interface. For this, specialized devices are used that record the eye movements of the respondents. Eye-tracking provides information about where the user looks, in what order, and for how long he focuses on individual elements of the page and which parts he ignores. The study emphasizes users’ unconscious responses, which is why it is considered objective.
  • It may be used during the evaluation, implementation, development, and redesign phases.
  • It may be used in the modeling, design, evaluation, development, and redesign phases.

Statistics analysis

  • Uses data from analytical tools (e.g., Google Analytics) to understand user behavior on a website or application. The data includes information about website traffic, traffic sources, conversion rates, website navigation, time spent on the website, and many other analytics metrics.
  • It may be used in the development and redesign phases.

A/B testing

  • Compare two website variants to choose the better one. At the same time, they show half of the users of variant A of the page and the other half of variant B. The test measures statistics and success rates for each page variant. The version of the page that generates better results wins.
  • It may be used in the development and redesign phases.

Mouse tracking

  • Lets you monitor users’ mouse movements while interacting with a digital product. Moustracking tools (e.g., Hotjar or Mouseflow) offer a mouse-tracking feature that allows you to record user sessions using pages, generate heat maps, and track clicks.
  • It may be used in the development and redesign phases.
Synergy Codes Design Team at work

Classification of research methods

UX research focuses on observing the behavior and attitudes of users, how they interact with the product, and how they use it. Learn about a classification of research methods in UX based on various criteria, such as the purpose of the study, collected data, subject matter, etc. This classification* will help deepen the understanding of the differences between the methods.

Researcher participation criteria:

  • Moderated research – the researcher (moderator) asks questions following the research scenario
  • Unmoderated research – the course of the study is decided by its participant without the researcher’s active participation.

Contact between the researcher and the respondent criteria:

  • Direct/offline research – The researcher has direct contact with the respondent
  • Remote/online research – The researcher and the respondent are in different locations

Research topic criteria:

  • Product research focuses on checking the product or concept related to it.
  • Contextual analysis – the priority is to focus on the user, understanding their needs, and learning the context of use.

Respondents’ participation criteria:

  • Expert research – the researcher performs verification on existing sources without involving third parties
  • User research – the researcher performs verification on existing sources without involving third parties

Type of data obtained criteria:

  • Behavior research – the researcher observes the actual behavior and actions of users
  • Attitudes research – declarative research based on the opinions and views of users

Data analysis method criteria:

  • Quantitative research – the researcher subjects the hypotheses to numerical verification based on data obtained by counting phenomena—a study conducted on large samples.
  • Qualitative research – They allow you to understand the phenomena and their causes. They focus on in-depth knowledge and understanding of the problem. Research conducted on small samples, subjective.

Degree of formalization of research criteria:

  • Formal research is conducted with great care for methodological correctness and the repeatability of conditions.
  • Informal research – faster and more subjective research conducted on a smaller group of respondents without controlling the conditions.

Selection of research methods

The selection of appropriate research methods in UX is crucial for effective data collection and understanding users’ needs. It is essential to consider research objectives, available resources, and the project context when selecting research methods. However, it should be remembered that the research and design process is ongoing. There is no single model of the research process, and the decision on the choice of research methods is influenced by many factors: the stage of product development, the situation in the organization, possibilities and budget and time constraints, or the qualifications of the research team.

Different research methods can complement each other, providing a more comprehensive and multifaceted understanding of user needs and behavior. Thanks to this, you can make better design decisions and deliver solutions that respond to the real needs of users.

Competitive advantage – a real return on investment in UX research

Treating the user experience as a priority brings numerous benefits. In the short term, ROI in UX research can mean higher conversions, lower support costs, more users, and most of your team’s productivity. In the long run, a better UX will translate into a safe future for the brand and loyal, aware, and satisfied users.

Daily life is increasingly intertwined with technology, and the quality of people’s experiences with digital products and services will continue to gain importance. Users will be increasingly demanding and choose products designed to their needs. Companies that fail to meet these expectations risk severe losses and possible failure. We always encourage our clients to commit resources to UX research because it affects the product and the entire organization

* source: Badania jako podstawa projektowania User Experience, Iga Mościchowska, Barbara Rogoś-Turek; PWN)