User Experience: 20 Research Methods Explained (Part 1)
User experience research or UX research is a very important part of the design process. It allows product developers to formulate assumptions and determine if they are valid or invalid. UX research also helps developers identify common factors that exist across the target demographic, allowing businesses to better understand customer needs and requirements.
To put it simply, user experience research is like any other form of research – it keeps us informed and validates our theories.
Now, to carry out research, there obviously needs to be an approach or a method. For user experience research, we actually have 20 such methods. In this article, we will simply list out and provide a brief explanation of the 20 different methods.
Ethnographic Field Studies
In this method, researchers observe prospective customers in their natural environment. Natural environment refers to an environment where the prospective customers are most likely to run into the product or service.
A focus group approach involves discussing various topics, associated directly or indirectly with the product/service, within a small group of people; usually 3 to 12. The group members provide feedback that is collected and analysed.
Participants are provided with tools to recreate what they perceive as the perfect experience. This method helps identify what a prospective customer really wants from the product.
Here, participants and researchers gather at the usability lab to engage in a one-on-one interaction. Scenarios are created, where users have to execute certain tasks using the product/service.
Researchers engage in a one-on-one interaction with participants to understand what they feel about the product, especially in the context of UX.
Heavily scripted tests are conducted using participants. Performance measuring is done in a precise manner.
The participant’s eye movements are tracked using a device to understand where he/she is looking, when using the product.
Unmoderated Remote Panel Studies
A group of trained participants are made to record their usage of a product with the help of recording software on their own devices. The entire recorded is collected for analysis.
Moderated Remote Usability Studies
This is a usability study method that involves remotely monitoring a participant using tools or applications such as screen-sharing software.
Participants are provided with a camera or diary to record day to day activities that are connected to the use of the product or service. The study can be narrowed down to include only the aspects that are relevant to the target audience. This approach is longitudinal and is limited to data that is easy for participants to record.
Here, an aspect of the product that captures its primary essence is shown to participants in order to determine if the product meets the expectations of the target demographic. The testing can be done with a group of participants or on a one-on-one basis.
Here, participants are provided with various visual-design options and are asked to match each of the options to a range of attributes from a closed list. A qualitative or quantitative approach can be used for this method.
A participant’s usage of a website or software is recorded and analysed. Telemetry data collection maybe required for this method.
Close or open ended information is provided by voluntary participants over e-mail, feedback forms, or website links.
A type of survey that gets activated when the user uses the application or website is called an Intercept Survey.
This method involves asking site visitors questions about their intentions or goals with regard to their usage of the site. Their behaviour is measured and upon exit, they are asked if their goals were achieved. The site visitors are selected randomly.
Participants are asked to place certain items into groups and categorize them. This method allows developers to improve a site’s information architecture through the study of the user’s mental models. A qualitative or quantitative approach can be used.
Unmoderated UX Studies
An automated for of study where a special research tool monitors and records user behaviour and attitude. Participants are provided with objectives or goals that need to be attained by using the product. A qualitative or quantitative approach may be used.
This is a scientific method where multiple designs are tested with different groups of participants. The interactions of each group with each design are measured in the context of its effect on user behaviour.
Participants are recruited through e-mail for a general survey.
In our next blog, we will take a look at when a particular method of UX research can be applied.