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What is UX Research? A Guide for Business Owners and Stakeholders

December 20, 2022 ・8 min read

ux research business value

To put into one sentence: UX is the product development method that ensures you always deliver product experience customers will choose.

Consumers are bombarded with ads, offers and recommendations from friends and families. They are constantly comparing what is best. When your product proposition is not aligned with customers’ pain points, they will favor others that seem a better promise. UX ensures your product marketing and onboarding experience stands out from competition.

COVID has drastically accelerated the digital transformation, uplifting the expectation for seamless user experience. When your website or mobile app does not offer the best, consumers will switch in the blink of an eye. UX ensures consumers stay engaged and active, reducing churn rate.

COVID has also forced millions of people out of their jobs. Consumers are feeling the cold wind and they are holding tight to their wallets. When your sales experience does not answer the critical question, they will leave and they may never come back. UX ensures your conversion funnel design is optimised for the right prospect with the right message.

What is UX research

What is UX research? User experience (UX) research is to use various research methods to get a customer’s eye view of your product or service on a functional level. It focuses on understanding the users’ goals, needs, behaviours and paint points so your team could make  informed decisions that are fact-based and data-driven.

ux experience

What are the types of UX research method

 

There are more than 50 types of UX research method that can be divided based on 3 dimension:

  • Attitudinal vs. Behavioural
  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative
  • Exploratory vs. Validating

Attitudinal vs. Behavioural

“Attitudinal” refers to what people are saying, while “behavioural” refers to what people are actually doing – and these are often very different. The former is often used in marketing research because it looks at people’s stated beliefs and needs. While the latter is adopted in product design to understand how they will interact with the product and if they can complete the tasks easily. 

An example for attitudinal research is a focus group, where a group of 6-12 people are invited to talk about a few topics. The facilitator is also presented to make sure all interviewees have a chance to share their opinion.

While A/B testing is a behavioural method which shows visitors different versions of a site at random to track the effect of site design on conversion and behaviour.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Qualitative research methods gather information about users by observing them directly, as in user interviews or field studies. It aims to investigate the human side of data by understanding the underlying reasons and motivations surrounding consumer behaviour. These research often use small numbers of diverse (rather than representative) cases, and the data collection approach is less structured. They are best suited to address the “how” or “why” of consumer behaviour.

Quantitative research studies, on the other hand, collect and analyse results, then generalise findings from a sample to a population. They require large numbers of representative cases to work with and are structured in their approach. They use measurement tools like surveys or analytics to gather data about how subjects use a product, and are generally more mathematical in nature, making them the best to answer questions like “what,” “where” and “when”.

Exploratory v.s. Validating

By collecting and analysing information about users, the intended use of the application, the tasks they perform with the application, and the technical constraints presented by the application, exploratory analysis allows researchers to better understand the user experience. This type of research is done early in the product lifecycle and continued as data identifies which components of the product and user experience are most critical. Typically, exploratory data is collected through UX surveys, interviews, site visits, focus groups, and observational studies.

Validating research methods are often used in the later stage of the product development cycle. Using wireframes or actual products, this research aims to get factual feedback from users by observing how they complete tasks, what they struggle with etc. Validating data is collected via usability tests, UX benchmarking, eye tracking, A/B test etc.

Commonly used UX Research Methods

Before exploring the business value of UX research, let’s start by introducing the common UX research methoda. The various types of UX research range from in-person interviews to unmoderated A/B tests (and everything in between), though they are consistent in that they all stem from the same key methodologies: observation, understanding, and analysis.

Interviews

One-on-one interviews are a tried and true method of communication between a researcher and a user or stakeholder. There are three main types of interviews, each of which is used in a different context and with different goals.

user-interview

Directed interviews are the most commonly used type. The interviewer asks a list of specific questions prepared beforehand. The format is useful when conducting interviews with a list of users to compare and contrast answers to identify the patterns.

Non-directed interviews are the best way to learn about touchy subjects, where users or stakeholders may be put off by direct questions. With a non-directed interview, the interviewer sets up some rough guidelines and opens a conversation with the interviewee. The interviewer will mostly listen during this “conversation,” speaking only to prompt the user or stakeholder to provide additional details or explain concepts.

Ethnographic interviews involve observing what people do as they go about their days in their “natural habitats.” In this sort of interview, the user shows the interviewee how they accomplish certain tasks, essentially immersing the interviewer in their work or home culture. This can help researchers understand the gaps between what people actually do, and what they say they do. It can also shed light on things that users do when they are feeling most comfortable.

Focus Group/Panel Studies

Focus groups are often seen in marketing research as it is a great way to understand what people think about some topics or a product idea from a lot of people in a very short time. A typical focus group would have a panel of 6-18 interviewees. 

Focus groups can be moderated or unmoderated, in a moderated focus group, the facilitator ensures all panellists have an opportunity to express their opinion while in an unmoderated one, panellists are left to let their conversation go free.

Participatory Design

Participatory design is an approach to design attempting to actively involve all stakeholders in the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and is usable. It creates the opportunities for people to meet and work together on a shared vision. This builds new social capital and strengthens existing networks. When people know one antler better, they tend to be more tolerant, trustful, and capable of making change collectively. 

Card Sorting

card-sort

Card sorting can be done as a separate test or part of an interview. In a card sort, a user is provided with a set of terms, and asked to categorise them. 

There are two types of card sort: (1) a closed card sort where the category name is given and the users need to decide the category name for each term, and (2) an open card sort where the user creates whatever categories he or she feels are most appropriate.

The goal of a card sort is to explore relationships between content, and better understand the hierarchies that a user perceives. Many content strategists and information architects rely on card sorts to test out a hypothesised grouping or the navigation  of a website or mobile app.

Tree Tests

In a tree test, users are given a task and shown the top level of a site map. Then, much like in a usability test, they are asked to talk through where they would go to accomplish the task. However, unlike in a usability test, the user doesn’t see a screen when they choose a site section. Instead, they will see the next level of the architecture. The goal is to identify whether information is categorised correctly and how appropriately the nomenclature reflects the sections of the site.

Diary/Camera Studies

A diary study is a UX research method in which participants keep a log of their thoughts, experiences, and activities over a defined period of time, usually a few days to several weeks. It provides a self-reported and longitudinal record of users’ behaviour and attitudes that researchers later parse and analyse to better understand habits and patterns. 

Surveys and Questionnaire

survey-questionnaire

Questionnaires and surveys are an easy way to gather a large amount of information about a group, while spending minimal time. These are a great research choice for projects that have a large and diverse group of users, or a group that is concerned with anonymity. There are many free tools such as Google Docs, Typeform, SurveyMonkey that can be used to create the survey and share with your testers. Or platforms like Rakuten Survey, SurveyMonkey Audience helps you to recruit the right audience from their customer panel.

Since the researcher can’t interact directly with the respondents, therefore they can’t help with interpreting questions or framing them if the wording isn’t quite perfect; and researchers typically have a limited ability for follow up. 

Desirability Studies

As the name suggests, desirability studies is a way to understand the aesthetic and visual design deceit you may be considering and ultimately measuring how much certain designs evoke certain responses relative to each other. The goal of the UX research method is to learn more about how each design influences participant’s perceptions of things like trustworthiness, or whether or not a design does a good job communicating a particular message or idea.

Concept Testing

Concept testing is the process of using surveys to evaluate consumer acceptance of a new product idea prior to the introduction of a product to the market. There are 4 types of concept testing: 

  1. Monadic testing that test only one product concept;
  2. Sequential monadic testing that test multiple concepts;
  3. Protomonadic testing which test multiple concepts with a preference at the end;
  4. Comparative testing in which testers are asked to compare multiple concepts. 

The purpose of concept testing, fundamentally, is to see if customers like your product, to gauge whether they will actually buy it and you shall not confuse it with a usability test which assesses how effective, efficient and satisfactory a prototype or actual product is.

True Intent Studies

A true intent study is a type of survey in which you intercept a live visitor and ask them questions once they are done browsing your site or app. True intent studies are mainly used to better understand who is visiting your app or site and if they are able to accomplish what they came to do. 

This research method helps to describe the user’s experience from interacting with the site. It then helps to better understand users and how to meet their needs. The data collected during the study allows identifying important or necessary content and to design user flow, helping to access the site’s stats and identify its weaknesses.

Usability Lab Studies

Usability lab is a place where usability testing is done and an environment where users are studied interacting with a system for the sake of evaluating the system’s usability. Users will be in front of the interface (computer, mobile etc) and alongside a facilitator who gives the users tests to perform. Behind a one-way mirror, observers watch the interaction, make notes and record the activities.

Usability lab studies provide a good environment to observe how users interact with a prototype or actual product and gives opportunity for multiple observers to watch the interaction. It helps to discover any missing requirements or any kind of development that was seen to be intuitive but ended up confusing new users.

Usability test provides actionable insights to UX designers on how to simplify the user flow and align design with users’ expectation so users can complete the task faster. In a recent project, Planto partnered with UXlicious to revamp its user onboarding process and 

usability-test

Usability Benchmarking

Usability benchmarking takes a collection of related workflows, breaks them down into discrete tasks, and measures how usable they are across several dimensions. What this generates is a rich body of quantitative and qualitative data that highlights specific pain points and areas for improvement. 

Eye-tracking

Eye tracking is a process of measuring eye position and movement, determining where the person’s gaze is directed. It gives you a perspective that no other method can deliver; and that’s the one that belongs to the user. By using an eye tracking based UX testing tool. You can get unique insights into the way in which people engage with your product or design. In the study, the tracker has to be calibrated for each participant.

Clickstream Analysis

Clickstream analysis is the tracking and analysis of visits to a website. Although there are other ways to collect this data, clickstream data is usually collected using a tracker javascript tag. The events of the user are tracked using a tracker code and this is sent to the collection server, where they are saved. Each event can then be sent to a data warehouse where they can be used for business or analytics purposes. 

A/B Test and Multi-variant Test

A/B testing is another way of learning what actions users take. An A/B test is typically chosen as the appropriate research form when designers are struggling to choose between two competing elements. Whether the options are two styles of content, a button vs. a link, or two approaches to a home page design, an A/B test requires randomly showing each version to an equal number of users, and then reviewing analytics on which version better accomplished a specific goal. A/B testing is particularly valuable when comparing a revised screen to an older version, or when collecting data to prove an assumption.

Business value of UX research: What are the ways you can equip your business with UX skills

There are four approaches to onboard UX skills:

  • Build an in-house team: you can start acquire your own UX expertise, this ensures you can always find the right expertise in short notice and you are always in touch with the customers; but at the same time, the capacity of 1 or 2 researchers would be limited and they may need extra hands and their experience may not be able to meet your needs sometimes;
  • Train current team to adopt the new skills: many aspiring product managers and graphic designers are interested to know more about UX research, and they can be trained to carry out more UX research activities. It is good to upskill the whole team and create a customer-centric culture, but their current commitment for their role may come in conflict with the new responsibilities and they may risk to jeopardise both; 
  • Use an UX agency to perform the UX research activities: when you do not foreseen a constant need of UX research or your budget is not enough for the capacity you need, a UX agency can be a good value for money, a team of UX experts offers a tailored solution for your needs and the blended pricing point ensures your cost is lower than creating an in-house team; 
  • A hybrid of the three methods: the three methods can be mixed to fit the business need at different stages of the product(s) and service(s), while a new product concept requires extensive UX research and testing, a mature product may need much less qualitative and thus less resource
ux-team

When considering how to onboard the UX skill sets to help your product and design team create better product and marketing team to communicate the message that directly address the consumers’ pain point, there are a few aspects to consider:

  1. Is the UX research need urgent: a new hire may take up to a month to get into full capacity and up-skill the current team would take much longer, if you need the UX research project complete soon, a UX agency would provide much higher quality work with its capacity and professional work process;
  2. Does the task varies over time: while an in-house team provides consistent support to the business, their skillsets are often limited, UX agencies can help as the extra hand when conducting specific, advanced UX research;
  3. Do I plan to invest in understanding the consumers: building your own team requires sizeable investment to achieve its intended benefit, you need to think through how much you plan to spend

How Much is it to Build your Own Team

The salary of the UX research varies based on their years of experience and their level of technical expertise in consulting behavioural UX research studies.

In the US, a UX researcher makes around US$88,000 to $134,000 according to PayScale.

In Hong Kong, the average cash compensation for a UX researcher is HK$40,000 per month, or HK$480,000 p.a. A senior UX researcher can get up to HK$800,000-HK$1,000,000 p.a.

Start Quickly with UXlicious

UXlicious provide you with the most professional and complete user experience research and development services. Our team consists of product managers, user experience designers, UI designers, front-end and back-end development engineers, system architects and other UX professionals.

We can provide one-stop UX research and development service, which includes product positioning, demand design, user experience design, development and launch, operation management, and product iteration.

Contact us now to help you develop digital products that conform to user habits and demonstrate your unique brand image.

Takeaways About UX Research

User experience (UX) research is to use various research methods to get a customer’s eye view of your product or service on a functional level. It focuses on understanding the users’ goals, needs, behaviours and paint points so your team could make  informed decisions that are fact-based and data-driven.

UX research methods cane be categorised in three ways: 

  • Attitudinal vs. Behavioural
  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative
  • Exploratory vs. Validating

Attitudinal research refers to what people are saying, while “behavioural” refers to what people are actually doing. 

You need to consider the urgency of the need, the required skillsets and the budget to get the job done. While an in-house team provides consistent support, a UX agency covers a comprehensive sets of UX research needs with an overall lower cost.

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