UX research is the first and the most important step of your design process. This research step will be like a blueprint while going through the process of implementing the last design prototype that will result in achieving project’s business goals.
UX research helps in understanding both the users, those who will use the project and the competitors, study competitors in order to gain a competitive advantage.
UX research is important because it answers many questions that are must be clarified in order to accomplish your process based on authenticity and credibility. It focuses on real needs, defines the features needed to address those needs, and prioritizes what changes should be made.
UX research contains two main aspects to study: User research and competitors research.
This is the point of the design process where you really come to understand your users. Collecting data through user research (interviews, field studies, etc.), mixed with some old-fashioned empathy will give you a good idea of whom you’re designing for, and what they want.
We design for users. They have needs, gains, and pains, all you need is to know your user's needs in order to solve their problems. Web design is all about solving problems.
User research phase will help you understand your targeted audiences based on real data by many various methods.
Before we can list those methods to use for conducting your user research, we would know types of research that will help you detect which way to use. There are 3 types or dimensions of research:
It's descriptive, it describes who your users are, how they think and feel. To find out their needs, opinions, and problems.
Understanding users behaviors, feeling, goals, and pains are the basic which will help you build a successful User Experience.
It's numerical, it can be measured and analyzed based on numbers and analytics. You can do research on either an existing product to improve the product experience or a totally new product.
Quantitative data when producing a new product will help you know how many users would use the product, how many hours will they use the product and so on.
When improving an existing product, quantitative research will make you gain data like time on a single page, a number of users engaging with a particular page, user flows and bounce rates.
Generative research aims to have an overall look around you to find opportunities for solutions and innovation. These solutions could be new products or experiences or they could be an update or improvement to an existing one.
Evaluative research aims to evaluate your existing solution to see if it meets people’s needs, is easy to access and use, and is hopefully even enjoyable.
This type of research should be conducted throughout the development lifecycle, from early concept design (think rough sketches or prototypes) to the final site, app, or product.
This final dimension aims at searching for the answers for some questions like “What opinions do a user have about a product or service?” and “How is a user actually interacting with a product or service?” For certain situations, you may need to know what your users think, but for others, it is more important what your users do. Using the appropriate methods will help accomplish your user research successfully.
Here are some User Research methods to conduct:
Is a great tool when it comes to deciding on which IA to use. You can test both labeling and taxonomy, and also the hierarchy of your project (website or mobile application). Based on the users mental model, they will arrange the hierarchy and also give or change the naming of navigational elements.
In the card sorting method, you would invite some users to test or suggest Information architecture. There are two types of card sorting interviews (Open and Closed card sorting) and it depends on your needs to choose one of them.
In Open card sorting, the participants would organize elements and content within the website into groups and name each of those groups. Use it to identify how user group pieces of information and what labels do they give to them. Whereas in Closed card sorting, participants would sort topics within predefined categories. Use it when you want to know how users will sort items into each category.
A technique that defines what the first item the user will click on a web page or a mobile app in order to accomplish a particular task. This test can be applied on a functioning website, a prototype or a wireframe.
It measures usability, legibility, and usefulness of a website or an app. It aims at finding out how easy it is to complete a task.
This method helps to know more about how users think and what their mental model is. It is quantitative data research.
Doing interviews with users is a great method to know them. During the Contextual interview, you can watch and listen to users while they are navigating the website or the app in their environment while they are working, studying or doing any task they are familiar with. These interviews are almost more realistic and natural.
The results are usually qualitative, observed data, rather than quantitative, measured data.
To understand in which context a user may use the website or the app is a great way to know your users and as a result to enhance the UX.
A focus group is a group contained 6-9 users to discuss issues and issues about a website or an app. It helps generate ideas and opinions about any project and it can also be conducted for validating new concepts and ideas before taking them into development.
Using focus groups is a great way to gather feedback and responses to a new design or prototype or even to choose between design routes.
In a focus group, participants tell you about their experiences when using a product, on contrary to contextual interviews, you as a researcher can observe users while they are using it.
In which you as a researcher can talk to one user for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The user may be an existing user or a potential one. The interview may be face to face, by phone or a video conference. By interviewing a user you would know his attitudes, beliefs, goals and pain points. And it would be your persona.
By conducting individual interviews, you will find answers to questions that will help you integrate usability and usefulness into your UX design.
Best way to conduct it is to have two UX researchers. One of them is to ask questions to the user, the other one focuses on taking notes over the answers.
According to the Interaction Design Foundation, Usability testing is the practice of testing how easy design is to use on a group of representative users. It usually involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks and can be done for different types of designs, from user interfaces to physical products. It is often conducted repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release.
The key difference between usability testing and traditional testing (bug testing, acceptance testing etc.) is that usability testing takes place with actual users or customers of the product. Whilst traditional testing might be undertaken by a developer, designer or project manager, usability testing removes any bias by collecting feedback directly from the end user.
Is a questionnaire that you launch online and your targeted audiences would answer and complete it.
It helps you to gather feedback, the reasons why users abandon a page or evaluate usability.
It studies where the eye focuses more or the motion of the eyes on a single web page. By eye tracking, you can know where users look, what the most items they are looking to and how long they look to them. It’s conducted by recording eye behavior and its motion.
In all other user research methods, you have to ask users to take notes. In eye tracking method, you would record what users look and don’t look to on web pages.
Is one of the most effective factors when it comes to UX design a project. Explore all those companies or brands that are in competition with your project.
What are they offering to their users? How do they arrange content and design? And how to maintain a competitive advantage by identifying their points of weakness and strengths.
If all competitors offer similar content and functionality. And you don’t create this similarity, they may go to competitors sites instead.
You have to study the content and how they organize information and data. You also need to study functionality that means what users can do while they are at the website.
By studying competitors, you will make a decision over two main things on your project:
Study their labeling to elements. Are they working or not? What is the best way to label menus and taxonomies?
A Card sorting research -we have talked about then- will help you implement the best labeling and taxonomies.
Taxonomy is a system for naming items on your website and organizing those items into groups.
Explore their visual design to create better UX design based on the look, feel and usability. You need to explore their using of typography, images, icons, and all visual elements.
According to Interaction Design Foundation, Visual design aims to shape and improve the user experience through considering the effects of illustrations, photography, typography, space, layouts, and color on the usability of products and on their aesthetic appeal. To help designers achieve this, visual design considers a variety of principles, including unity, Gestalt properties, space, hierarchy, balance, contrast, scale, dominance, and similarity.
After you have conducted User Research and Competitive Research by identifying your user's needs, pains and gains and with also defining the points of weaknesses and strengths, you now can implement your persona.
And that is what we will talk about in the next section.
A user persona is a representation of your targeted audiences, it would be fictional or realistic, that contains user goals, pains and main characteristics that will make him use the product you are developing.
Personas could be a great guide for prioritizing features over other ones. It could also be an inspiration for new ideas.
Each persona represents a significant portion of people in the real world and enables the designer to focus on a manageable and memorable cast of characters, instead of focusing on thousands of individuals.
When designing your project, put your persona into your mind. Ask yourself questions like, is this way will help “X” persona to achieve his goal !, will the persona “Y” like to interact with this page!
After conducting your user and competitor research, and developing your personas, you can now do the ideation phase in which you make scenarios, stories till developing the wireframe.