RESEARCH

UX Research Methods – a Complete Guide

There are numerous UX research methods available to product designers.

You can use one method to gather data and insight and the other to support ongoing activities. Every research stage brings something valuable to learn, but it’s crucial to determine the correct method that meets your objectives and budget and fits the context. 

Our Complete Guide on research methods will give you a thorough overview of their sorts and when to use them, so keep reading!

Relaxing in red shoes with sticky notes and other office equipment

Types of UX research methods

The most used research methods are stakeholder interviews, user interviews, competitive analysis, surveys, concept testing, usability testing, focus groups, card sorting, tree testing, AB testing, analytics analysis, diary study, and more.

Stakeholder interviews

Stakeholders are members of the organization (sometimes even prominent customers) who bring valuable information and advice about the product. Therefore, stakeholder interviews are one-on-one discussions with individuals interested in the success of the product you’re working on. They offer beneficial insights that could simplify the design process. Stakeholder interviews focus on gathering information from three important UX areas: user needs, business goals, and technical limitations.

User interviews

User interviews are one of the UX research methods where you get to ask a single user questions about a topic of interest, such as how they use a specific product, or even about their behaviors or habits, to learn more about that topic. User interviews are usually one-on-one conversations (even though there might be more researchers, one who facilitates the discussion and the another who takes notes). This method can help you gain a deep understanding of your users.

Researchers usually record the interviews or write down the answers. Knowing how to conduct user interviews can help you identify problems and develop solutions.

User interview conducted in person
User interview conducted remotely via video call

User interviews can be held in person or remotely

Competitive analysis

The competitive analysis supplies you with strategic data about the features and functions of your competitors’ solutions. It can also give insight into what feelings their solution evokes in their users. 

Gathering such data can help you overcome obstacles earlier in the process and eventually design a solution that will deliver an incomparable experience. Competitive analysis is one of the UX research methods that should be one of the earliest research steps in the UX design process. It’s important to note that new competitors can emerge at any time, so make sure you revisit this method as long as you are designing this product.

Surveys

A survey is another research method that contains questions sent to a specifically targeted group of users that examines their perspectives and choices. To form a high-quality survey, you must first understand the customer’s challenges and learn how to create questions that won’t leave space for any biases in your data.

For example, good surveys include feedback questions, where participants share their experiences using your current product. Then come open-ended questions about users’ impressions. It’s crucial always to ask follow-up questions, such as rating the product’s overall experience. Surveys are a relatively cheap method for collecting a lot of quantitative (and at times qualitative) data.

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Concept testing

Concept testing is a UX research method that gives you user feedback early in the design process to acquire thoughts on potential solutions. UX researchers conduct concept testing at the beginning of product development because it allows users to share ideas on how to solve a problem. Their ideas will help you minimize the risk of disappointing your customers upon launching your product. 

UX Research methods such as concept testing also enable you to understand where your product will fit within the market.

Usability testing

Usability testing, sometimes called user testing even though you are not testing “the users,” is a research method that involves real people who interact with your product. At the same time, you observe their reactions and behavior.

The goals of usability testing may vary, but their primary function is to identify problems in the design, learn about target users’ preferences, and discover possible opportunities to improve the design of your product. With usability testing, you’ll uncover how easy it is to navigate and use your product. The core elements in this UX research method are the facilitator, the scenarios, and the participant.

Focus groups

A focus group helps UX researchers collect the target audience’s thoughts and perspectives about design. Focus groups are generally small groups of people (usually containing six to nine participants) who meet to review and discuss your product’s design.

For a successful focus group method, you’ll need to set a goal and carefully select participants to make sure they fit your target user entirely. Depending on where you are in the research process, this method might involve only discussions or collaborative tasks connected to your product.

Card sorting

Card sorting is one of the UX research methods UX designers use to improve or assess the product’s information architecture. Participants organize topics into categories in a card sorting session and group them accordingly. 

You can use actual cards, post-its, or even one of several online card-sorting software tools to conduct a card sorting method.

The card sorting method is a cheap and straightforward technique to organize data and is usually very quick to execute. Its biggest plus is that it provides a valuable insight into the users’ subconscious and how they expect the information organization.

Card sorting exercise
Tree testing research method

Card sorting and tree testing are both methods that help you create information architecture

Tree testing

Tree testing is a UX research method that helps UX designers evaluate the order and findability of topics in your digital product. Participants get a text-only version of the site’s hierarchy and are asked to complete a series of tasks.

The ultimate goal is to determine whether your users can find what they are looking for in your product and achieve their objectives. The data you collect from a tree testing method will help you comprehend how users navigate your product and organize your content.

A/B testing

A/B testing or split-testing is another example of quantitative UX research methods. 

It consists of finding a version of an image, copy, font, or other variables that perform best. 

To conduct the A/B testing method, you’ll need to create two (or even more) versions of a single element, randomly split your user group, and see which version has a better performance. A/B testing can show how minor modifications impact user behavior, help you choose the right approach from design to implementation, and test whether the new design goes in the right direction. 

UX Analytics analysis

UX analytics measures and analyzes user activity on a product to provide insights into how you can improve or adapt to meet the end users’ needs.

This UX research method is a process of converting raw data into valuable information.

You can use UX analytics analysis to gauge what users do or research why they do it.

Diary study

A diary study is also a great example of UX research methods. Here, participants log a diary of their activities, experiences, and thoughts over a pre-defined period.

A diary study is a cost-effective and insightful method; it provides a detailed, self-reported record of behaviors and perspectives that UX researchers later examine and analyze to distinguish patterns and comprehend users’ habits.

You can use diary studies early in the design process to look for potential changes before the project becomes too big or at the end to see if people use your product the way you intended it and fine-tune it if necessary.

Two woman sitting at the table and talking

Research can help you gain valuable insights into user journeys

Categories of UX research methods 

To decide on which of these UX research methods is the right one for your project, first, you need to understand the problem you want to solve and determine the data you need to collect to solve the problem.

Moderated and unmoderated

This categorization is quite simple: moderated research methods have a UX researcher present & conducting the session, for example, leading the interview by asking questions and guiding the discussion. Unmoderated research consists of participants answering questions independently in an arranged setting or even from home, without any interference from UX researchers.

Unmoderated research methods are when UX researchers send out questions for the participants to answer by themselves. 

Unmoderated research methods, such as surveys, are usually quick and save time for researchers, which means you can do more of them. In 10-15 minutes, you get valuable feedback without wasting resources, and you can cover a more extensive geographical area. 

But, sometimes, users get confused. With unmoderated research methods, there is no possibility for follow-up questions asked by participants or the researcher, which can diminish the quality of answers. 

On the other hand, moderated research methods offer an opening for a deeper discussion and follow-up questions that might reveal even more relevant and beneficial information. 

With moderated UX research methods such as user interviews, you can learn more about user journeys, everyday lives, and habits or walk them through your product or prototype. 

Moderated methods usually take 30-60 minutes, and the conversation flows easily. The participants also get familiarized with context, which can lessen situations where they might get stressed and offer biased feedback.

Qualitative and quantitative

Qualitative research methods, such as user interviews or field studies, help gather qualitative information by directly observing participants and their actions. 

Qualitative data contains users’ reasons, thoughts, and perspectives. 

This research method is crucial for discovering the reason behind users’ actions and understanding the problem you’re trying to solve. 

Qualitative UX research methods are instrumental in the beginning because they offer new ideas and insights that might guide you during the later stages of the design process. 

Quantitative research methods will get you numerical data and patterns within your target group. Quantitative data isn’t collected in person, and researchers either use tools to obtain data and measure analytics or do it manually. Some of the quantitative methods include surveys, card sorting, usability testing, and UX analytics analysis. 

Quantitative research methods are a must because they enable you to measure success rates and determine the best-performing version of your product. Moreover, quantitative research is more objective and represents a broader audience.

Both qualitative and quantitative methods are necessary for successful research with valuable insights. Selecting a single method can’t provide a complete picture, so we highly suggest utilizing both in combination. 

That way, you’ll get inspired with fresh ideas and valuable insights, and you’ll also be able to measure the success and stay on track with your design to reach the pre-defined business goals.

Attitudinal and behavioral

Attitudinal UX research methods investigate users’ attitudes about a product. Researchers ask questions to determine what the users think of the product, whether it reminds them of another product if they use it, and if they’d be willing to pay for using such a product. 

User interviews and focus groups are attitudinal research methods.

Researchers use behavioral methods to closely study users’ behavior while using a product of their interest and learning from it. 

In other words, behavioral research methods will tell you what’s happening, while attitudinal research methods explain why it’s happening. 

Usability tests and A/B tests fall into the behavioral method category. 

The behavioral research method answers questions such as how users interact with a new feature, how long it takes them to complete a workflow and achieve their objectives, how successfully users navigate the UI, or even which copy reaches a higher number of conversions.

When to use UX research methods

In the design process, there are different phases. 

The discovery phase is the initial phase of creating a new product, feature, or service. This phase is the time to discover and understand. 

During the discovery phase, UX designers collaborate with business owners and other stakeholders to cover the base of the current situation, define goals, pain points, and challenges you’ll need to resolve, and determine the first steps and what is necessary to move forward. 

The UX research methods useful in the discovery phase are stakeholder interviews, focus groups, surveys, competitive analysis, user interviews, and diary studies.

After gathering relevant information about the business, defining what goals users need to achieve, and what problem we are solving, it’s time for the design phase. 

During this phase, you’ll explore different ideas to build user journeys and mockups. You’ll experiment with styles, fonts, images, and colors. In the design phase, you’ll benefit from using methods such as competitive analysis, card sorting, concept testing, and tree testing. 

After constructing most of the design, it’s time for more testing.

As you focus on testing solutions and prototypes, you’ll get the most out of research methods that allow users to try out your product and see whether they achieve their goals with ease, such as usability testing. 

In the end, comes the after-release phase, where designers review and fine-tune the design. Here, the most valuable research methods are A/B testing and analytics analysis.

⚡️ Supercharge Tips

Now that we’ve covered all the basics regarding UX research methods, it’s time for our short but sweet tips to make you a professional in UX research!

Practice is key

If you want to nail research methods such as user interviews, a good practice is a work half done. Create a skeleton script that will help you stay on track with the process, but leave some room for flexibility. 

Practicing will also boost your confidence, which will ensure the participants that there is a real pro on the other side, and increase their morale.

Less is more with A/B testing.

When doing A/B testing, it’s better to test smaller chunks of the design rather than larger groups or even the whole design. 

If you set out to test a chunk that is too large, you won’t be able to determine what exactly influenced users to change their behaviors. Instead, work to test out just copy or the colors of CTA buttons in one test and other elements in the other. 

That way, you’ll have a clear vision of the results.

Combine & Match

We at Supercharge are fond of cocktails, and not only when it comes to after-hours. Sometimes, we like to blend our UX research methods, too!

For example, you can mix up a survey as a pre-elimination tool for your focus group. If you’re thinking that combining multiple methods might sound too expensive or too time-consuming, the truth is that mixing them can help you get more things done with less.

We hope this extensive guide has helped you grasp UX research methods. If you want to share your opinion or a favorite trick we haven’t mentioned, we’d be happy to hear from you, so get in touch via our contact form.

Explore our Instagram profile, where we offer heaps of useful and amusing content from everyday UX life.

We wish you happy research! 🔬

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