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Today’s Guest Blog, ‘A comprehensive Guide to User Research Methods and Trends,’ is provided by Nadica Metuleva.
Nadica Metuleva is a linguist who dreamed of following in her grandfather’s footsteps. As soon as she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in English, Nadica jumped at the opportunity to become a writer. Seven years later, and she’s a Master in English Language Teaching, with her content published on many websites, and an even more promising career ahead. Today, Nadica creates content that captivates the audience, drives growth, and educates. You can find her on LinkedIn.
User-experience design is a magical tool that makes people more engaged with your products and services. The designers cannot just wave a wand and make things happen, and it is a challenging process, but one of designing useful, engaging, and easy-to-use products. We hope you find our comprehensive Guide to User Research Methods and Trends helpful.
UX design involves every bit of action you put into making customers’ experiences while interacting with your brand more pleasurable. Even though it is not simple, it’s the best and only way to keep people choosing your business – and coming back for more.
Unless people find satisfaction and value in your offerings, they’ll look for it elsewhere. But, how can you know what they want? Through research, of course. Your research of the targeted audience, including user research methods and trends, should take part in every design decision you ever make.
What is UX research?
The main idea behind UX research is to define how the customer thinks and behaves. By exploring their actions, the communication with your brand, as well as their thoughts, you can obtain and analyze the most useful data you’ll ever get to grow your business.
UX research is based on task analysis, observation techniques, and feedback methodologies. There are two types: quantitative and qualitative. The first is exploratory and used to generate numerical data that quantifies the problem. This branch includes online and paper surveys, longitudinal studies, polls on the Web, and even analytics tools (including Google Analytics).
The latter is a more direct assessment based on observation, one where you track people’s behaviors to understand their beliefs and needs. It includes interviews, usability tests, and field studies.
From these two branches, there are many different types of UX research. Some might not affect your business’s success, but others can be the best thing that happened to it. It is why the first thing you must do is figure out which method to use.
Picking the most suitable research method for your brand
Maze’s user research method guide, an excellent place to learn more about the most common methods, makes the following statement:
“Choosing the right research method starts by knowing what problem you’re trying to solve and what type of data you need to collect.”
Before you pick and implement any research method, it’s essential to decide which one follows your business’s current trends and requirements and the target audience. In other words, the only way to truly identify customers’ touch points is with the right strategy.
Trending UX research methods to consider today
Based on the latest trends in the design world, here are the trending methods you should be considering.
Out of all these options, usability testing is probably the most frequently used. When you test the usability, you identify the problems and frustrations that people are facing on your site. Thanks to tools like Maze, this is now easier than ever.
Let’s assume that you have a business website. Do you know if it works for the visitors? It is now time to sort it into a comprehensive and logical structure. With this method, users are asked to group the data based on their thought processes. It tells the researcher whether or not the current information architecture of the site works. It also indicates what to change in terms of navigation.
People are most calm and think clearly in their natural environment. Contextual interviews allow researchers to observe the users in such an environment, showing how they work.
Interviews are one-on-one discussions where the researcher asks the user directly about the matter at hand. It takes tons of time and can make for a significant investment, but it provides excellent insight into the user’s desires and experiences with the brand.
Focus groups demand the participation of both sides. They include moderated conversations and discussions with selected users to understand their ideas, attitudes, and needs.
First click testing
Currently, a popular method, this type of testing is performed on a prototype, wireframe, or website to track the navigation and users’ instinct decisions.
When users are asked to check and evaluate your data, they might not know what to look for exactly. The entire process can also be overwhelming for them, but not for professionals. There are usability experts that evaluate sites based on established guidelines, making this a popular strategy also.
When more than one designer pursues one effort simultaneously but independently, they can later combine their knowledge to come up with a great solution. It is what parallel design is all about. UXMatters splits the process into four steps:
- Designers work independently
- They present their designs
- They work together to evaluate the designs
- Repeat the process to learn more
Representative user/ persona creation
The user persona is your ideal customer – the person who is most likely to engage with your design and take action. Creating one or several personas is fictional but valuable when working on your marketing, business, product, and other strategies. Why? It’s because, in this way, you have a basic idea of who your audience is and what they want.
Surveys contain carefully thought questions asked to selected website users. When answered, these questions help you learn more about the people who visit the site.
Prototyping is creating a site mock-up, and it can be everything from a simple paper mock-up to highly interactive HTML pages. It’s a great way to explore and test new ideas before you get them out there for people to see.
System Usability Scale is not technology-dependent, and yet, it offers a highly subjective evaluation of your site’s usability. This tool was created by John Brooke back in 1986 and is now more popular than ever. It’s a simple 10-item questionnaire with five response options for the users ranging from strongly disagree to agree strongly.
When you decide where to begin or what to focus on, you should consider all of your options. Naturally, some methods are more appropriate for your needs compared to others. It is why it’s essential to consider factors like time, type of service or product, system maturity, trends, and top concerns.
It’s always a good idea to do as much testing as possible and mix up methods to obtain as much helpful information as you possibly can.
The four stages of user research
Regardless of which option you choose, you should know that there are four main stages of UX research.
For starters, your task is to discover what you don’t know concerning the user’s needs. Before creating a new design, product, or service, this part is essential because it allows you to plan your path – and decide whether you should do the project or not.
At this stage, your goal is to discard and validate any assumptions and only then share the data with your team. To avoid unnecessary expenses and time loss, you need to see if the project is a good fit. It will also show you the right people to work with, your target audience, and whether your idea is a promising one.
It is wise to conduct interviews and field studies during this process, i.e., track users’ behaviors and thought processes. You can also use diary studies to understand this information better and interview the staff to learn about the most common concerns that customers share.
If you have the option, listen to support calls and sales calls. It will show you how well the support agents work and what troubles customers have with your brand.
Finally, check out your competition. Some competitive testing will provide you with remarkable insight into the weaknesses and strengths of your competition. This way, you’ll know what to offer and exclude from your offerings.
Next is the exploration stage. It is the part where you understand the problems and figure out ways to address your customers’ needs. At this point, you should be doing the following:
- Design reviews creation
- Comparison of your features against those of your competition
- Build user personas
- Demonstrate the user journey to stakeholders and request their insight
- Explore a variety of design possibilities by brainstorming and testing
- Test paper prototypes, interactive prototypes, and use methods like card sorting
- Check for inconsistencies
Also known as the validation stage is when you check your designs, starting with their development, and make sure that they work as intended. Naturally, this requires tons of work, too. For starters, you should do some qualitative usability testing in groups, with a diverse range of participants, and alone.
Your task at this point is to engage people and request that they self-report their experience and any incidents while using your product. You can also create live conversations where people ask questions and check how your support handles their demands.
Social media is an excellent place for the testing stage. You can keep track of your accounts and converse with users online. It is a spot where many people will share their praise and complaints.
One other place is forums. Find the forums in your industry and check them out to see if people are talking about your brand. If you can, start a conversation to learn how well your product is working.
Any part of your design process is a listening stage. Continue listening throughout your data research and design to understand your customers and fix their problems. This part includes things such as:
- Survey both prospective and current customers
- Monitor metrics and analytics regularly to discover the anomalies and trends
- Analyze the search queries
- Analyze incoming feedback channels regularly
- Build up your FAQ section to provide people with easy answers
Final Thoughts to User Research Methods and Trends
User experience is what makes your design – or what breaks it. The goal is to make the experience for your users perfect so that they pick you and become regulars of your brand. Right now, you need to understand that no user experience is without flaws. However, you can take some measures to improve your customers’ experience and beat the competition. They are dependent on the data you collect through research and how you use that data to boost the experience.
It all starts with UX research. It is an ongoing process that you must dedicate tons of time to complete. However, if it works and you pick the better methods, it can help grow your business as you’ve always wanted. Giving thought to user research methods and trends and implementing them better will help you move to the next stage of your career.
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