What is…User Research?

When you hear the word research, what comes to mind?

Photo by Science in HD on Unsplash

Maybe it’s something like this? A person entrenched in a lab doing some mad scientist stuff? (No offense to the pictured scientist, I’m sure she’s performing some groundbreaking research in the picture on the left).

Well my friends, I am here to explain that not all research requires being holed up in a lab.

Meryl knows what I’m talking about.

Introducing User Research!

User Research (in a UX sense) is “the process of understanding the impact of design on an audience” according to Mike Kuniavsky.

User research is very versatile:

  1. It helps you create designs that are truly relevant to your users.
    By focusing on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations, people become the center of your design process and your products. This understanding usually comes from surveys, interviews, usability tests, and other qualitative (non-numerical) methods.
  2. It helps you create designs that are easy and pleasurable to use.
    People today expect products to be easy to learn and easy to use. If your product does not provide a pleasurable experience, people will most likely try a different product. That means less business for you 😢. On the other hand, if you can provide a delightful experience, people are more likely to come back and not only use your product again, but also recommend your product to others. That means more business for you! 😃
  3. It helps you understand the return on investment (ROI) of your user experience (UX) design.
    The value of user research (and really UX design as a whole) can be difficult to communicate at times. However, if you can show that changes to a design resulted in metrics like higher sales and increased consumer base, or made a product/work process more efficient, it can result in more buy-in from upper level management and employees. This means higher budgets to go do more research and tap in even more to the user experience.

So that covers the basics on what User Research can help you do.

You may be wondering “Christian, where are the methods? Which one should I use?” And those are valid questions.

My answer is that there is no right answer on what method to use, because it depends on the situation and the problem that you’re trying to solve.

For more in-depth coverage on research methods and when to use them, I suggest checking out this article.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the next article in my What is… UX series! For more content, check out the rest of my Medium articles, and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn :)

Open minded + curious UX Designer. I like taking deeper dives to understand and summarize topics so that other people don’t have to do as much work (hopefully).