UX Research: a complete overview
In this article, we provide a complete overview of the tools, methods, and techniques used to conduct user experience research, which is often abbreviated as UX research.
What is UX Research?
User experience (UX) research is the use of various research techniques with the aim of gaining insight into the behaviour, context, and underlying motives of the end user.
User experience research, also known as user research, is inextricably linked to UX design and prevents making decisions based on gut feeling and assumptions. In fact, UX research is so closely intertwined with user experience design that it is impossible to carry out UX design without UX research underpinning it.
Different terms are used for user experience research: UX research and user research all refer to user experience (UX) research.
The benefits of user experience research
There are countless benefits of conducting user experience research. Not only does it help to get a better idea of user needs, you also validate that your website or app is meeting these needs.
- Prevents steering on assumptions. Test assumptions and hypotheses directly with testers from the target group to get clarity.
- A better product. By testing a website, app or concept with the target group, you ensure that pain points and obstacles become clear and can be remedied.
- Strong business growth. The beauty of UX research is that it not only ensures happier customers, but also has a direct impact on conversion.
More satisfied end users. By listening to (potential) customers you not only give them the feeling that you are listening to them, but you also ensure that you are developing a website or app that meets their needs.
When should you conduct UX research?
If you are going to carry out UX research, you want to make sure that you get the most out of it. Depending on the research questions and the phase your website or app is in, you determine which method to use.
We have listed the most common phases where UX research is applied below:
- Discovery phase. This is the phase before the (re)design and development process starts. In this phase, carrying out consumer needs research or concept research can be of added value. Are you going through a redesign process? Then it can be valuable to carry out usability research on the current website (a zero measurement), and carry out a new study after going live (one measurement).
- Validation phase. During the (re)design and development process. To collect feedback at an early stage and improve prototypes made in Figma, Sketch, Adobe XD, or Invision, prototype research can be used or you can have a UX audit carried out.
- Optimization phase. In this phase, you conduct UX Research on a website or app which is publicly available. In this phase, studies such as usability research, UX Audits and UX benchmarks are conducted.
How much does UX Research cost?
In general, studies conducted on location require more preparation and are therefore more expensive than studies conducted via a UX Research Platform such as User Sense.
When you choose to setup your own studies, you can use our platform and conduct a complete usability test for less than 400 euro. In case you are looking for a research team to conduct the study on your behalf, prices start from 1395 euro.
Of course, the chosen research technique also affects the costs. For example, sending out a questionnaire is often cheaper than conducting qualitative research. Finally, you should also take into account the fact that recruiting respondents can be expensive, especially when you are looking for specific target groups.
UX Research Dimensions
Depending on the research question at hand, different research techniques can be used to answer it.
Although user experience research is a fairly new field, most of the research techniques that are used have been around for much longer. The different research techniques can be divided into two dimensions: quantitative / qualitative, attitudinal / behavioral.
Quantitative and qualitative UX research
In quantitative user experience research, an attempt is made to make a statement about the entire population on the basis of a sample. This often requires large numbers.
Conducting quantitative UX research is often most appropriate when there are research questions that need to answer 'what', 'where', and 'when'.
In qualitative user experience research, the focus is more on the human side of the hard data by investigating underlying motivations and motives. Although the sample size is smaller than in quantitative research, it continues to the point where no new information is collected.
Qualitative UX research does not look so much at what is happening, but at why certain behavior occurs. Research questions in qualitative UX research often answer questions such as 'why' and 'how'.
Attitudinal and behavioral UX research
Another way to break down the different UX research techniques is to see whether they are attitudinal or behavioral in nature.
Attitudinal research focuses on what people say, such as user interviews and focus groups. Behavioral research, on the other hand, looks at what users do. You can think of eye tracking, heat maps, or A/B tests.
UX Research Techniques and Tools
Now that it is clear which dimensions of UX research there are, we will help you on your way by giving a brief overview of the most common UX research techniques.
(Un)moderated usability research
Chances are you've heard of usability or user testing before; it is one of the most well-known UX research techniques. During a usability test (on location or online), users are asked to use a website and think aloud. You can read more about conducting usability research on this page. Our favorite tool? You guessed it: that's User Sense.
Biometric UX research
Biometric UX research, also known as biometric research, provides insight into the subconscious behavior of users. Brain scans (often in the form of EEG), eye tracking and emotion recognition are used to make a statement about how users feel when using a website, app or prototype.
With the help of heatmaps you can easily gain insight into what users do on a website. The rage clicks, click, heatmaps, and move heatmaps are often the most interesting. Common tools for this are Microsoft Clarity and Hotjar.
To find out whether a proposed adjustment (for example, resulting from usability research) actually has a positive impact, the use of A/B testing is very suitable. Commonly used tools for this are Google Optimize, Optimizely, and VWO .
Card sorting is a UX technique that can give you insight into how users expect information to be arranged on a website or app. During a card sorting survey, you can ask users to categorize items on a website into categories that make sense to them. This can be done online via, for example, the User Sense platform.
Tree testing is a research method used to determine the extent to which users are able to find information quickly and easily. The navigation structure often follows after a card sorting study has been carried out, after which a tree test determines whether the new menu structure is indeed logical. These types of tests can be performed through User Sense.
Another common method of researching the UX is by sending questionnaires to existing and/or potential customers. This UX technique is more quantitative in nature. Common tools for this are Surveymonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms .
User interviews are often conducted to gather more information about the target audience you want to reach. In-depth interviews are often used when conducting concept tests, where a new idea or concept is presented to the target audience.
To reach the target audience, UX researchers often work with a recruitment agency to recruit test users. To conduct in-depth interviews, you can use Microsoft Teams or Zoom – or a tool such as User Sense.
UX researchers also use focus groups to collect additional information. These often take place offline, because that often works better than via a video call. Focus groups are often used early-stage in the UX Research process.
In a diary study testers are asked to use a product or service over a longer period of time and to take notes in the meantime about how they experience it. Unlike many other research techniques, a diary study provides an overview of the user experience over a longer period of time.
What does a UX Researcher do?
A UX Researcher is - you guessed it - responsible for conducting UX research. In many organizations, this is a crucial function; the UX Researcher represents the voice of the end user, often making him or her the basis of major business or design decisions.
While every company is different, the tasks a UX Researcher performs are often broadly the same. UX Researchers often take care of the following research phases:
- Drafting the research questions. The UX Researcher's task is to summarize the issues into a well-defined main question and associated sub-questions in order to ultimately answer the main question.
- Choosing the right methodology (and UX tool). Once the research questions are clear, a UX Researcher will look for the most appropriate methodology and tool (and corresponding budget if necessary).
- Execute the research technique. In this phase, you know what research questions need to be answered and what methodology you are going to use. That means the fun part can begin: conducting the research with the target audience.
- Analyzing the research results. In this phase the research results are in and it is important to analyze the results in a transparent and structured way. This is with the aim of being able to easily deduce patterns after the analysis.
- Writing UX research reports. Have you conducted the research and discovered patterns? Then it's a matter of summarizing the findings in a clear and to-the-point UX research report.
Because UX Research has grown significantly in popularity in recent years, you can see that many people who now work as UX researchers have entered from a different direction.
Still, more and more companies are now looking for UX'ers with demonstrable experience. Do you want to get started as a UX Researcher or designer yourself? Then it is advisable to follow a training course in this field, for example at the UX Design Institute.