What can we do when there is not enough time or resources to do UX Research? Do it anyway.
As designers or product owners we cannot afford to design blindly. Although a first step is to access product data and analysis, we cannot ignore research. Without it, no matter how small, we are designing completely in the dark.
In this article I’ll explain how to do UX research without dying trying and I’ll also break down the different types of research you can use and why.
Steps to do UX research
1. What answers do you need?
First of all, it’s important that you stop and think about what aspects you need to get answers about:
- What is the usage of a particular functionality?
- How does the user perform a certain action (register, consult invoices, etc.)?
- How does he/she navigate?
- And, above all, why do you need answers to these questions?
As an example, if what we want to see is how the user downloads an invoice, it is because we need to see that the flow makes sense and, above all, that the user completes his objective without unnecessary friction that may cause him to abandon the product.
2. Investigate what data you already have
Even if no conventional UX research has “ever” been done in the company, you most likely already have data to work with: Google Analytics reports, app store reviews, etc.
Also the employees themselves, who, although they probably have a biased view, will surely have heard comments or have their own opinion about the product.
3. Define which UX Research methods you will use
Talking about them in detail would take us a long series of articles, so what we will do is describe the 8 main UX research methods above and indicate in which cases they are useful.
The first thing is to differentiate between quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative information is directly measurable and objective. Qualitative, on the other hand, gives us personal opinions and allows us to know in detail each user and the reason for each action or thought.
4. Define the timing
Once you are clear about which method(s) you are going to use, it is time to define a project timeline, including research.
For example, and not counting production: one week for UX Research, three weeks to process the data, draw conclusions and design, and another week to do another test (usability test, for example) and finish making the necessary modifications.
When planning the research, remember to calculate how many people you will need and the materials (software and tools) required. Don’t forget to confirm this with your superiors and project stakeholders.
8 basic methods of UX Research
This is a qualitative method that allows us to get to know the user personally.
It can be done face to face or via Skype. With 5 or 6 interviews you will be able to obtain data to start working on. It is advisable to ask open questions and avoid those that allow you to select options or are very closed, as the latter make us lose information.
You can learn:
- User scenarios (situations in which your product will be used).
- User objectives and tasks
- Motivation to use products
Field research – UX Research
This method investigates the user in his own environment and allows you to find problems during the “real” use of the application. You simply have to observe a user using the product: you can accompany him during a day at work and see how he performs, always without intervening.
Another easier option is the so-called guerrilla test: approach a person (on the street, in a shopping mall, etc.) and ask them if they want to give you a hand. If they allow you to, then ask them to perform X or Y tasks with the application.
If you do this to 3-5 people you will soon see if there are any serious usability issues that need to be fixed immediately.
You can learn:
- How the user performs a given task and why.
- Discover opportunities and user needs
This involves asking the user to write a small diary of their experience for a week or a month. This will allow us, for example, to see what goes through the mind of someone who wants to buy a car, since we will see everything they do until they finally buy it.
The content of the diary should focus on their feelings and problems. So that they don’t forget, it is important to define that they should write down something every day at certain times.
You can learn:
What the user’s customer journey is like, from the moment they decide to the moment they buy or use.
Where and how decisions are made or how they interact with the product.
Start with Google searches to find online communities and see what problems they are talking about and which ones are recurring the most. You can also use information from forums, Reddit, chats, social networks, Slack communities, conduct surveys on the website itself, etc.
With online research you will quickly get an orientation of where the problems are and, once you have a hypothesis, you can start with other UX research methods to complement results.
You can learn:
- User opinions and preferences.
- Statistically relevant results (with the online survey)
You can do this when you already have a prototype that can be navigated, but you can also use sketches and initial ideas.
The first thing to do is to recruit participants from the target audience. Then ask them one by one to perform a specific task or answer questions while using the prototype. Record and document the entire process, both their interactions and their comments.
You can learn:
If the user deviates from the intended use and if they get stuck.
What the user understands (and what they don’t)
It allows you to quickly analyze what users think of your landing page or brand, as well as what their first impression of the application is or what they understand (or don’t understand) at first glance.
Simply show the prototype or sketch for just five seconds – although you can increase it to ten – and then ask simple questions.
The result is almost immediate and can lead to changes or improvements to the visual elements.
Helps create navigation structures and information architecture. You need some kind of information to get started, such as data obtained through Google Analytics.
Preparing it is easy: cut small paper cards and write on them product functionalities or content sections of the website or application. Then ask users to organize them into groups.
There are two types of card sorting:
- Open. Allows users to create their own groups and name them. It is useful to understand what users’ mental models are like and to understand their structure.
- Closed (also called inverted or tree-test). In this case the participant must place the cards within groups that have already been predefined beforehand. This method is used when the intention is to validate a previously defined structure.
You can learn:
- User logic and how it thinks
- How to build a navigation that matches the user’s logic.
In this article you have a summary of how Google does UX research in a week.
The secret to conducting successful UX research is to not let lack of time or budget stop you. It’s easy to ignore the research and jump straight to designing, but if you do you are ignoring your own user.
I recommend this book, ‘A project guide to UX design’. It explains everything you need to know: how to integrate UX into a company, from requirements gathering to delivery, research, design and more.