UX Research: Tools, Trends and Strategies
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UX research is used to study users and their needs. So why is this so important? In brief, a product user’s needs are a priority. Those needs need to be taken into account. This can only be done with data-driven insight. User experience research does this in a systematic way. This is important for any business that wants to boost trade.
In fact, there is a lot of trade activity to analyze. Shopping is on the rise, with no signs of slowing down. Between 1998 to 2018, retail sales hit just over $5 billion. UX researchers identify how and why people use a product. They study problems and gaps within the existing model. This information impacts design solutions. It also ensures alignment with user expectations.
Using Research Tools to Know Your Customer
Market research is different from user experience research. Market research analyses product buying behavior. Also, it gathers data to answer key questions. This includes the market need for a product.
Also, UX research addresses customer complaints. This way a product is made to be user friendly. Yet, this can be a sizable and costly undertaking. Luckily, there are tools to help. They include the following.
Picture 1. Research tools
This tool interviews existing app or site users. It helps with live-recruiting, and schedules participants in advance. It also recruits for in-person interviews and automates a lot of elements. This includes real-time notifications.
2. Optimal Workshop
This is a bundle of 4 research tools. Treejack tests information architecture, either for the nomenclature or the hierarchies. Optimal Sort observes how users organize themselves. It does this through the use of online card sorting. Chalk mark gives heat maps of click patterns across a site. Reframer takes notes and identifies themes.
3. Survey Monkey
Survey Monkey is an online survey creation and reporting tool. Users are able to develop and customize their own surveys which they can then share via social media, embed them onto landing pages, or integrate with mass mailing campaigns. It allows for easier analysis and reporting when the results come in.
This tool takes the guesswork out of design decisions. It facilitates quick design iterations and clear user feedback. There are over 170, 000 participants that businesses can target for research.
UserTesting.com allows you to see how many people use a site. Additionally, researchers can create a series of tasks and receive videos from participants. Whether pre-chosen or randomly selected. Researchers can observe participant behavior.
This tool supports moderated and unmoderated usability testing. Likewise, it supports remote testing and benchmarking. Likewise, it supports card sorting, tree testing, surveys, and rankings. This tool can really benefit organizations that have deep pockets.
UX Research Trends
UX research has evolved over the years. It has undergone some major transformations in the last decade or so.
User Experience Research That Drives Digital Business Strategy
In this space, UX research is often overlooked. But more people are using technology in everyday life. A business is wise to include User experience research to drive digital strategy.
Data-Driven Design Process
This research shows the value of design decisions. UX researchers are expected to have foundational knowledge in analyzing marketing data. Furthermore, this data-driven process will provide 2 benefits:
- Design measurement and validation.
- Discovery of key product and experience areas.
Picture 3. Data-driven design
Agile User Experience Research
Faster research is a pressing need in business. So, there are tools to help researchers work better and faster. For example, Userzoom has recently added product features. This includes automated participant sourcing and video transcripts.
The Five Winning UX Strategies
All UX projects are different. Research tasks vary from one setting to another. Here are a few methodologies that can help the research process:
Both researchers and stakeholders prefer the 1-on-1 interview format. Let’s consider the 3 different types.
- Directed interviews – These are often in a question-and-answer format. They are handy when comparing answers from a variety of users.
- Non-directed interviews – These are a great way to learn about touchy subjects. The researcher does not ask direct questions. Instead, a rough guideline leads the conversation. But, the interview can ask for more information.
- Ethnographic interviews – These observe how people fulfill certain tasks. As a result, the researcher distinguishes between stated and actual behavior.
2. Surveys and Questionnaires
Surveys are a quick and easy way to gather information on people. In particular large, diverse groups. The researcher can create a survey using tools such as Google Docs and then email it out. Many responses come through fast. Surveys that don’t need personal details have a higher response rate.
3. Usability Tests
These question potential or current users about a product or service. The users also complete a set of tasks. Their behavior is then observed to determine the usability of the product or service.
There are 3 styles of usability tests used.
- Moderated – These can happen in person, or via screen share and video. An impartial facilitator reads the tasks out aloud. Thereafter the user is meant to think aloud as she accomplishes the tasks. The facilitator’s role is to phrase questions to test the effectiveness of a design. He can test assumptions and help the user feel comfortable with the whole process.
- Unmoderated – The user completes these online at their convenience. Users speak their thoughts out loud. Like moderated tests, although there is no moderator.
- Guerrilla -. Researchers target users in places like coffee shops or subway stations. They are then asked to complete a basic set of online tasks for money. It is best used for products and services with a large user base.
4. A/B Tests
When designers struggle to choose between 2 competing elements, A/B tests are very useful. Through a split test, each version is randomly shown to the same users. The analytics are then reviewed to assess the best performing version. This split testing is also used to collect data to prove an assumption.
5. Card Sorting
Card sorting forms part of either an interview or a usability test. The user categorizes a set of terms. In a closed card sort, the user is also given the category names. But, in an open card sort, the user creates whatever categories he/she feels are most appropriate. The goal is to explore the relationships between content. Another goal is to understand the perceived hierarchies.
The Threats and Challenges
Time and Budget Constraints
User research is often costly and time-consuming. This may make a decision-maker or client ask to skip this phase altogether. But, this has cost companies millions, so this is a factor to bear in mind.
User data is important to support any type of research. Yet many people find research quite intrusive. So this makes it hard to get information that would help in the UX design process
Deciding Which Problem to Solve
UX uncovers a variety of product-related issues. This can be confusing. It will then become harder to settle on one problem and solve it.
The Issue of Privacy
Users and stakeholders hesitate to reveal their private details. This can hamper truthful responses. Privacy is a significant concern with this research.
UX research is a valuable tool. Companies interact with and meet their customers’ needs. This is a great way to develop a competitive edge. With plenty of best practices to draw from, a business cannot go wrong.
Emily Andrews is the marketing communications specialist at RecordsFinder, an online public records search company. Communications specialist by day and community volunteer at night, she believes in compassion and defending the defenseless.
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