Running a successful business today is all about getting on the same page as your customers. The faster you can accomplish this, the sooner you’ll find that you’re hitting your benchmarks and edging out the competition.
But, how do you swiftly move your organization to the top in a highly competitive marketplace? With the right combination of market research and user experience research (UX research), you’ll find the keys to unlock the secrets of what your customers want and need.
UX research has a monumental impact on business, and that’s why executives are pouring more time and money into hiring UX research and design professionals. In fact, according to a recent report, 81% of executives said user research makes their company more efficient, and 86% believe that user research improves the quality of their products and services.
With these findings in mind, it’s clear UX research is a field all organizations should jump at the chance to improve. If you’re not entirely convinced, continue reading to learn more about what UX research is, why it’s essential, and what techniques a UX researcher uses to capture valuable insights.
What is UX research?
UX research stands for user experience research. It includes everything from user research techniques to learn what your users need and want and includes implementing that feedback to improve user experience with a service, product, or the user interface (if you’re dealing with software).
During UX research, a specialist will gain insight, establish facts, find problems, and reach new conclusions. By following a specific methodology, a UX researcher will come to understand the users’ needs and identify how a product, service, or software can meet those needs. Then, they use that information to inform product development or user design.
Why is UX research so important?
To give you a quick idea of why UX research is so important, let’s look at one potential example of an industry that would be wise to use UX research before product development.
To create an MVP (Minimum Viable Product), for example, it can cost anywhere from $30,000-$50,000, on average.
Imagine what it would be like to invest 30 to 50 grand in a product only to learn your intended audience has no interest, no need, or no use for your product.
Moreover, these numbers only account for the development of Minimum Viable Products. They don’t include the loss that can come from building robust software, specialty products, or making massive changes to current products or interfaces.
In an age where customer and user experience are crucial to business success, you must invest in market research and UX research.
When UX research is done the first time correctly, it takes all the guesswork out of product design and development, saves your organization time and money, prevents you from investing money in a potential flop, and ensures you are designing a product that will wow your audience.
What Does a UX Researcher Do?
Now that you know why UX research is so important, let’s delve deeper into what a UX researcher does.
UX researchers use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research to learn what their users need and want. The reason they use a mix of research techniques is to capture well-rounded data that they will use to inform design. Here are three critical methodologies a UX researcher will use.
Observation in UX research
It’s true that self-reported user data is valuable, but observation can provide insight consumers might not even know they are missing.
When UX researchers observe users interacting with a product, they look for behavioral clues that help them understand what a consumer thinks about a product. Observation is valuable because researchers can objectively see realities consumers may fail to report.
Understanding the mentality of users
Not only do UX researchers observe customers using a product, but they also seek to understand a customers’ “mental model,” or how a customer expects to interact with your product or software, or what they believe about the product or system.
For example, if you are making changes to your website, a user may type a search term into an empty box in the “resource center” and hope for a list of results about the search term. This is an example of a mental model of how users think a product/system/website should work.
While this example is elementary, it’s illustrates well how UX researchers make sure a product is designed to work the way a user expects it to work.
Analysis & communication
The job of a UX researcher doesn’t end with observation and understanding users’ mental models. They are also responsible for analyzing the data and communicating it to the design team in a way that makes perfect sense.
This step can be challenging, but with the right analysis tools, and the help of data visualization, UX researchers will be able to provide valuable instruction.
What techniques does a UX researcher use?
The last question to ask when it comes to learning more about the job of a UX researcher is “what research techniques to researchers use to glean insights?
Here are some top research techniques you can expect from a professional UX researcher.
A UX researcher will use interviews to learn more about user needs, values, and attitudes. Asking direct questions and getting clear answers is a reliable research technique that will provide valuable insight.
If a researcher is left wanting after an interview, they can conduct a contextual inquiry/interview. This is where observation comes into play as researchers will watch how users interact with products, equipment, and interfaces in their environment. This helps researchers understand more about user issues, preferences, wants, etc. when using the product.
Usability testing is when a UX researcher evaluates a product by testing it with a representative set of users. These participants will complete tasks, and the researcher will observe and take notes. This helps you identify problems before taking any further development steps.
UX research is a vital part of product, service, software, mobile app, etc. development. When you take the time to hire a specialist, you’ll find you have a product that users need and enjoy.
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