The success of a product/service has always depended on how its consumers perceive it. 

However, today, with the internet at our fingertips all day long, this applies to digital interfaces, where users evaluate the fluidity of their journey. In this way, the user is constantly faced with product and service interfaces. 

What is the role of UX Research in the Design process?

These platforms lead the user to experience different experiences and to have different perceptions. We therefore call this "journey" a user experience (UX).

A good UX experience must therefore be based on an understanding of the target's needs.

In this sense, UX Research aims to understand the user through several processes and methods that will allow to develop interfaces adapted to the user so that he has the best possible experience. 

Therefore, the UX Researcher is the professional in charge of identifying the needs of the users by referring to qualitative and quantitative methods.

His work is the basis of UX to the extent that it allows the team to make the best decisions and create user-centric interfaces.

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What is the role of UX Research in the Design process?

UX research is part of the design process (UX Design). It is a way to collect qualitative and quantitative data to determine user needs. 

Numerous techniques, from cognitive sciences and human sciences, allow to obtain this information.

The results of the investigations feed the team's reflection and future choices in interaction design and interface design. User research can be carried out:

  • At the beginning of the web project (analysis phase)
  • When designing the interface
  • Before delivery (ergonomic evaluation phase)

Often, UX Research refers to user testing, i.e. the evaluation of websites and mobile applications tested with representative users.

In reality, these usability tests are one UX Research method among others.

However, the meaning of UX research can differ between its different users as it will not represent the same thing for a marketing team, where it will be used as a validation or testing process to communicate a certain message or for a brand design, as for a product team where its objective will be to validate concepts and prototypes.

The methods of UX research

The UX designer has an important toolbox to perform UX research. Some UX techniques are relatively inexpensive and require minimal personal investment. Others require significant preparation. 

Whatever the case, they can be used throughout the life of the UX project.

Upstream (and sometimes downstream) of the design:

  • Ethnographic: study to be done at the beginning of the interface design.
  • UX benchmark: analysis of competing sites (visual identity, design choices, user interface graphics, usability...).
  • Analytical solutions (available digital data), useful but insufficient without additional qualitative study.
  • Service safari to understand the customer experience of a service or a range of services.
  • Focus group (collective interview) or individual interview with future users. The focus group can also be organized at the end of the project (evaluation of interfaces).

To organize the information architecture with the users of the website or application:

  • Card sorting: the user classifies and groups the information.
  • Co-design workshops: user involvement when designing an interface (software, website, native application, etc.).

In the analysis phase, but also in the design phase to have user archetypes:

  • Personas: the construction of a persona is done after the user interviews. Indeed, data is needed to establish a realistic user behavioral model.
  • Jobs-to-be-done: like the personas, it is about describing a usage scenario (user story). However, the focus is on the customers' goals and motivations.

During the analysis or evaluation of the usability of interfaces:

  • User testing or usability testing with wireframes or prototypes.
  • Ergonomic auditing, especially practiced during the creation or redesign of websites. The evaluator is an expert in ergonomics who identifies the strong points and problems of the UI (user interface).
  • Eye-tracking: a follow-up of the user's eye movements in order to know which graphic elements attract his attention. These tests help to optimize the interface content and thus improve the user experience.

UX research: a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods

In terms of the type of UX research, we have quantitative research and qualitative research.

Qualitative UX research is the study of human behavior focusing on context and detailed observation rather than statistical data.

Examples of qualitative methodologies:

  • Individual interviews
  • Focus group
  • Remote user testing

Quantitative UX research is the study of human behavior focusing on statistical data.

Examples of quantitative methodologies:

  • The survey
  • A/B test or multi-varied test
  • The heatmap

Why is UX Research always a good idea?

The quality of the user experience comes from identifying the expectations and needs of end users. 

User research is needed to identify the socio-economic factors behind each user's behavior, and to discover:

  • The use of the product in a real context
  • The mental model of the target user
  • Existing frustrations and problems
  • Solutions offered by competitors   
    Why is UX Research always a good idea?

In addition to offering a better user experience, UX Research benefits companies because it allows them to:

  • Verify the relevance of an idea before its implementation (saving time and money)
  • Reduce the production phase (especially application development)
  • Correct bugs or problems early enough
  • Understand the users' point of view and thus reduce cognitive biases
  • Increase customer or user loyalty by involving them in the design process
  • Favor the anticipation of the users' future uses

User research therefore has an impact on the entire UX process. Many methods and methodological tools can be used.

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Benefits of User Research

The advantages of UX Research are numerous. They are beneficial for both the user, a key factor in the development of the solution, and for the company itself.

What are the benefits for the user? The benefits lie in:

  • The realization of a useful and functional solution: the solution meets the user's needs and the user finds what he is looking for easily;
  • The achievement of a pleasant intuitive experience: the user reaches his goal and leaves with a positive general feeling;
  • The time saved: the solution allows the user to save a considerable amount of time due to the ease of use of the interface. 

What are the benefits for the company?

Designing better products: 

Empathy is now at the heart of design, it’s useful to design a product without knowing the behaviors and feelings of the target users. Doing research on the user is the surest way to understand him and identify his needs.

With the help of UX Research, it is possible to create designs that are perfectly suited to the users, relevant, easy and pleasant to use.

These techniques avoid designing a bad product, unsuited to the target.

A product that does not meet the needs of its users is not and will never be a success!

When done properly, research can eliminate all guesswork from the design process and improve the design. Ideas and assumptions will be validated or invalidated. User approval of the solution will be guaranteed. 

The designed interfaces are characterized by a high level of usability, and a minimum of positive UX feedback will be ensured.  

UX research is therefore an essential process in product design, but also in a good business strategy. It illuminates and expands the realm of creative possibilities. 

Save time and money:

One of the main reasons why the creation of a product/service fails is the company's prior assessment of the non-necessity of undertaking user research before designing the digital interface.

Indeed, starting from ideas and hypotheses conceived in advance on the needs of the target users, is inevitably to find oneself in the end faced with unsuitable solutions with usability problems and very far from the real needs of the final customers.

Using UX Research means being aware of all the difficulties from the start in order to minimize the risk of failure.

The research phase contributes to offer an interface designed on real needs, not on assumptions that can be misleading.

The product launched, based on information collected from future users, will have every chance of being adopted by them.

No more doubts, you save time and optimize development costs at the same time. 

Can be done with a limited budget:

To limit expenses, there are many methods to perform quick and much less expensive user research. 

Investing even a small budget in UX Research allows you to save on development costs and possible modifications of the final product.

UX Research: useful at all stages

User research can be used either at :

  • The beginning of the design process: the collection of information will serve as a basis for the future design of the interface and ensures that the general direction of the project is relevant to the users.
  • The time of interface design.
  • Before delivery of the final product.
  • UX redesign.
  • UX Audit.

A process based on the research methods used

There is no precise and defined process of UX research as it varies depending on the research methods used.

Therefore, the process will not be the same for focus groups than for usability testing.

Indeed, the objective of focus groups is to gather as much information as possible in a short period of time, whereas the objective of usability testing is to evaluate a product or service by using it with several users in order to identify usability problems, collect quantitative data and determine the user's satisfaction with the product.

Why a UX researcher should not be missing in your work team?

The role of a UX researcher is to get to know the users in the context of usage. He brings to the UX team valuable information to ensure a solid interface design.

His main mission is to collect (and restore) this information using quantitative and qualitative methods.

He/she must therefore have real skills in human sciences and master different UX research tools and methods.

Getting to know the user: the primary role of the UX Researcher

The UX Researcher will conduct a methodical investigation of users and their needs.

He uses a variety of techniques, tools and methods to determine facts, uncover problems, reach conclusions, thus revealing information that can be used in the design process.

In this way, he or she has a major role in leading UX research. Here are his main tasks:

Research strategy

  • Work closely with the product team to identify research objectives.
  • Define the research methodology to be applied according to the client's objectives
  • Establish and implement the overall research strategy.

Research Planning

  • Develop a well-designed research plan that incorporates the identified research objectives
  • Develop research questionnaires and discussion guides.
  • Recruit targeted end-users for specific research studies

Data Collection

  • Collect information from users through a variety of qualitative and quantitative methods
  • Qualitative methods to start (field survey or ethnographic study, user test, focus group...)
  • Then quantitative methods (user interviews with stakeholders and customers, card sorting...).

Data analysis

  • Use the appropriate tools to study user behavior and digital uses.
  • Translate the acquired user knowledge into concrete recommendations for the product team: write summaries and recommendations.

Presentation of the results

  • Create personas and other "information radiators" to communicate ideas to the design and development teams.
  • Present the results of the design research (UX benchmark) to the entire team in a clear and organized manner.

Manage the research and support the UX Design team

  • Write the animation guide, collect insights and analyze feedback
  • Assist the UX design team: inform product and service design, validate its assumptions and reduce the cost of delivering a successful product

Let's face it: UX research is the foundation of UX.

User research allows us to focus on the real needs of visitors to identify potential problems and suggest design solutions. In other words, without UX research, there is no UX and we would end up with a design process based on assumptions and hypotheses!

Without UX research and without validating the hypotheses, the result would not necessarily meet the user's real needs.

UX Research is an essential part of the user-centered design process and it is a determining step in UX Design.

Need UX Research? Let us help you and show you how you can implement Research & Insights for your business

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Tonic3 Tonic3 is a multi-national digital agency providing UX, VR/AR, and Software Development services with delivery centers in Dallas, TX and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Clients include Citi, McDonald's, Disney, Accenture, BMW, Danone, Banamex, Johnson & Johnson, and Sofitel.
Team as a service, User experience, Software development.
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