5 Best Practices for UX Research
UX research is a key aspect of delivering a user experiences that increase revenue and customer satisfaction. It is the process by which designers can study and measure the impact of their design on its audience.
Conducting research is key in creating an experience customers will love. When customers can accomplish what they want to do on your application with ease, it builds brand equity. Conversely, when it is difficult for a customer to easily accomplish their desired task with an application, it turns them away from doing business with the brand.
Since user experience is a key differentiator, the way that businesses gain a competitive edge is by satisfying their users down to the smallest details. UX research helps teams get a better understanding of those details.
Without UX research, you may invest valuable time and energy in creating or improving features that your users have little use for, while neglecting the improvements that are most important to them, thereby frustrating their experience with you. Furthermore, even if you are able to deliver a good user experience without research, you will not be able to fully understand what makes it successful and will thereby be unable to continually improve it or repeat its success.
The best UX is that which results from research.
So here are 5 best practices when conducting UX research.
1. Conduct testing before you commit to design.
Before your ideas have begun to set, it’s important to gain a better understanding of who will be using your application. Define your audience and begin to learn about them.
Engaging in UX research at the beginning of the project will maximize your effort, as your design ideas will be based on who your users actually are, rather than your ideas about who they might be (or who you think they “should” be). This will keep you from getting too far along into the UX design process only to undo what you have created.
You want your designers to have innovative ideas, but the key to innovation is solving a specific problem that exists rather than simply making a really beautiful feature that no one is asking for.
2. Define what you are trying to learn and which hypotheses you want to test.
When you begin UX research, specifically define what questions you want to answer. What do you want to learn about your users, their preferences and tendencies? Drill down on the precise details you’re looking for.
You will likely have an idea of what you believe the best UX decisions will be. So specify your hypotheses and the reasons you hold them, and then frame your research methods around either proving or disproving those hypotheses. This approach will give you concrete action steps once you have collected data.
3. Conduct multiple types of research.
Doing truly effective UX research requires a considerable amount of time and resources, and organizations should take advantage of a number of different types of research. These types of research fall into two basic categorizations: quantitative and qualitative.
Quantitative research consists of discovering what can be measured by hard numbers. This includes documenting how users actually use the application and can be captured through methods such as A/B testing to see which version of a feature performs better, as well as by tracking users’ clickstream to identify trends.
Qualitative research seeks to capture and document data that’s a little more intangible, though no less important. This includes methods such as individual interviews, focus groups, and surveys. The idea is to go beyond the simple actions that users take and capture something about how users feel about the experience and how they think it might be improved.
4. Look for what you weren’t expecting.
An individual or even an entire team can easily become emotionally invested in their ideas for how an application should look and feel, making it difficult to accept when users aren’t as in love with what the developers created as the developers are. And so it’s tempting to ignore unfavorable data, or to try to find a way to confirm their original idea.
But as Mona Yang points out, UX research should be motivated and guided by this overarching principle: you are not the user. So in developing UX, teams should always choose functional over fancy and the user’s preferences over their own.
When conducting UX research, be open to, and even look for information that subverts your expectations. Then drill down the “why” behind those results in order to gain a better understanding of your user and anticipate what will make for a more intuitive experience for them.
5. Take an iterative approach to updates.
UX research is incredibly important for new applications, as well as for major overhauls to older ones. But it would be a mistake to only pay attention to UX research at the beginning of a major project. The best research is ongoing and the best adjustments are gradual over time.
In many ways, UX research should never be a settled issue. Newer trends and technologies may emerge, or user behaviors and preferences may change over time. UX researchers should continually seek a deeper knowledge of the user through experimentation and by eliciting feedback.
Continuous innovation isn’t done for its own sake, but for the benefit of providing an experience that anticipates and satisfies the user’s needs and desires with increasing specificity.
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