What is UX Research and Why Should I Care?



What is user research and why should my organization care? What's the return on investment from research? Often, you'll hear people dismiss the value of research and you may have even asked the same questions before, too. Many think of research as a waste of time and money without realizing how important research can be. User research affects your entire strategy from idea conception to product delivery. Instead of thinking of user research as an expense or delay, you need to shift your mindset to see how it can actually provide savings to your organization.

What is UX Research?

According to interactions magazine, UX is a continuum that begins with UX research and ends with UI design. The research part of the UX continuum is defined as an action where you investigate something systematically. In UX Research, you apply various techniques in order to add context and insight into the design process. Research is needed to reach new conclusions, establish facts, and find problems. In addition, UX research will help you understand the users and their needs and identifies the requirements of the product. It’s important to note that good research involves applying the right technique at the right time in the product development process.

UX Research Techniques

So how do researchers get information? They use different UX research techniques such as:

  • Interviews - You can get a bunch of information just by conducting an interview with someone. In an interview, you’re able to ask questions and gather facts and statements. If you want to learn more about the user, you can use contextual inquiries or interviews, which is the next UX research technique.

  • Contextual Inquiries/Interviews - In contextual inquiries, researchers observe how users interact with equipment and interfaces based on their own environments. Contextual inquiries are beneficial because you are able to interview people when they are doing their tasks with little interference. In these interviews, researchers can learn important things like issues users are facing, the type of equipment they are using, their preferences, and how long it takes to complete common tasks.

  • Diary Studies - In a diary study, you provide participants with materials and structure to record their daily events, tasks, and perceptions around a subject to learn their behavior and needs over time. The advantage of conducting diary studies include being able to collect longitudinal and temporal information.

  • Card Sorting - According to usability.gov, card sorting is “a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site. Participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and they help you label these groups.” Card sorting helps you understand your users’ expectations and understanding of topics.

  • Usability Testing - In usability testing, you evaluate a product or service by testing it with a representative set of users. In these tests, people will complete tasks while you observe them and take notes. With usability testing, you’re able to identify problems before they are coded. If you’re interested in learning more about usability testing, Adrian, our ChaiOne UX Researcher, wrote a great blog post that can be found here.

Why is UX Research so important?

UX research is an important part of your mobile strategy because it protects you from designing the wrong product. Imagine creating something that nobody wants to use because you didn’t do your research. All your hard work, time, and money would have been wasted. Another reason that UX research is important is that it removes assumptions from the design process. You will have data to back up your design. If research is done correctly the first time, it will save your organization valuable time and money. You won’t have to keep going back and fixing dumb mistakes because users don’t like using your app or product. With research, you’re discovering the right requirements for the right people at the right time. All these reasons show that UX research is a bigger part of the process than you initially thought. If you haven’t noticed already, many examples of poorly designed UX abound online. You can avoid these mistakes by conducting user research. Remember: the later in the product design process you discover that your assumptions are wrong, the more money it will cost you to fix it.

Interested in learning more about the importance of UX research and research ROI? Sign up for the webinar below to hear from Jared Huke, the Director of UX and Design at ChaiOne.