UI/UX Development

How To Optimise User Research To Get The Best Results

Jul 23, 2019

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Umesh Kumar
UI/UX DESIGNER
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Good design has its roots set in both the user as well as business needs isn't a statement that requires too much validation. It's just a fact at this point in time. The tools however required to reach a stage where the design is functional as well as effective is what we are going to be pondering upon.

In a users market, no product can be expected to thrive without research that precisely points to the pains and the solution to answer those pains in bold letters. This is where user research enters. The pathway to creating design solutions that are grounded and focused on the user experience.

What is it?

A study to figure out every user's characteristics, aims and behaviors for creating an optimal design that caters to the target users are what user research is all about. It involves the continuous evaluation of the impact of the created designs on the intended users, not just during the development stage but rather even after long term use of the designed application.

As part of the research process both qualitative as well as quantitative data is collected in relation to the product. Usually, a setlist of general questions is what drives this research

  • Who your users are
  • What their needs are
  • What they want
  • How they currently do things
  • How they'd like to do them

Why it is important?

Context. This is the miracle word that drives design philosophy. Understanding precisely what the users want at every given point of time charts the growth matrix for any product that is released into the market. Research helps you move away from assumptions and engage with real users. Without doing so so you are virtually going in blind praying that a particular product would work.

It helps you design better products

Research helps design better. It's a fact. You are at the end of the day trying to design a product that people would actually use. The mantra in the UX world has always been some research is better than none.

It saves money and time

Skipping this step has never helped anyone. If a product is created without due diligence of the market, it will have usability issues & design flaws both of which are preventable. The competitive edge that a product would receive is also unparalleled. Running on real insights and facts is important, not blind guesswork.

How to Ensure Effectiveness

Once you have gauged a broad overview of what user research is all about, now comes the time to ensure that when the time comes to execute the research you do so with ease and optimal efficiency. So what is that you should keep in mind, it is all illustrated below.

Set Concrete Goals

Define your questions. The broader your goal, less effective your research becomes. To extract the maximum value from every part of the research that you conduct it is essential that a clear mission with concrete goals is outlined. The formulation of questions and defining the scope of the work being conducted will ultimately lead you to answer the question, What are you trying to solve and why?

The questions that you create will depend on the problem that you have chosen to address in the application. Every time a questionnaire is created for research purposes it is essential that it not be abstract and ambiguous. The actionable outcome is only achieved if the goals are concrete. Basically, design your survey to ask the right questions.

Choose Your Method/Tools With Care

The moment you are clear about what exactly it is that you want to find the answer to, you need to decide the method that you would adopt to ensure that you achieve useful results. On the context of your project, there is a wide array of methods that can be employed for the best results.

Traditionally a 3-dimensional framework with the following axis for clarity in the procedure.

  • Attitudinal Vs Behavioural
  • Qualitative Vs Quantitative
  • Context of use

Attitudinal Vs Behavioural

This distinguishes between what people say and what they actually do. Attitudinal refers to the user's beliefs and the existing metal model highlighting their response to certain situations. Behavioral methods help you move away from the preconceived notions and observe the users in action.

Qualitative Vs Quantitative

Quantitative data gives precise numbers and statistics for you to work on whereas qualitative Telles you why certain users behave a certain way. Quantitative data works best when one needs to define user segments, assess preferences, etc, whereas if one needs to find the intent to each one of those segments and preferences quantitative data would be gathered.

The more accurate of the two would be quantitative data as it gives precise numbers but if the state of usage of a product has to checked qualitatively it is. Qualitative is further collected in varying ways

  • Natural use of the product (diary study etc)
  • Scripted use of the product (lab-based or remote study)
  • Non-usage of the product (interview-based)

Context of Use

Time and time again, and this can't be said enough times, consider the effectiveness of the research you have decided to pursue in relation to your product and only then move forward. Context is all about if or not the participants will be using the products as part of the research.

Participate In The Process

A well known saying is showing up is half the work and as a designer, this statement cannot be stressed on enough times. Just be present.
The value of obtaining data first hand from user research is much more insightful than any research that one might be subjected to. Real humans engaging with your product will give you insights to improve on a very practical level.

A research team typically looks like this

The Researcher

The expert. The person who would determine the best course of action for your current needs and help the research sessions proceed in an orderly manner. This person will also be the interviewer.

The Observer

They are the note-takers, the moderators. They observe and make their findings which can shape their perspectives in terms of the product. These people don't have to be designers but anyone in the team related to the development and roll-out of the product.

The Participants

These are the most important link in your research. You findings are only as good as your participants in the study are. You would like to select a varied group of participants for the best results to find in the research.

Collaborate

Once you have completed the interaction with the participants it is important for all parts of the puzzle to come together. Everyone from the designer to the marketer would have created their hypothesis of the research and it is important they all come together to discuss the same for a concrete conclusion.
Through documentation of your research is essential for your product to succeed. Every person with their detailed notes will be able to put together a presentation for the future stakeholders for reference in terms of the design philosophy. No matter who you're giving your finding to, a detailed sheet outlining the facts and highlighting the reasoning behind the hypothesis will do a lot in terms of keeping the team on the same page.

Now that you know why UX research is important and how to make it more effective it is also essential to remember that research is a never-ending process. From starting early to right before the launch. It is the bridge between the customer and the brand. The market is a dynamic field, constantly evolving to create spaces for newer technologies. Every product that you create needs to move hand in hand with the same or else risk extinction.


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Umesh Kumar
UI/UX DESIGNER