Getting Started with UX Research

Usability | March 2016

If you are new to sourcing user experience, usability or customer research, we’ve got some suggestions to help you get started.

UX research flow diagram

User Experience, or UX for short, is quite a buzzword at the moment and its attracting attention from a wide range of disciplines.  Recently, while researching the profile of our clients, we found that some people were relatively new to the world of UX research and all the terms and jargon.
Everyone has to start somewhere.  So if you are new to sourcing user experience, usability or customer research, here are some pointers to help you.

Start here:

What do you want to know?

Unlike an exam, ‘don’t know’ can be a good answer!  But it helps if you have a few basic areas or topics that you want to discover more about.  To start with, it can help to map out what you do know.  For example:

  • who are your audience/customers
  • who do you want them to be
  • what do they need to do with your product
  • what are the problems you need to solve
  • what does your organisation want to achieve.

Who needs to know?

Thinking about who wants the data and insights early on can really help shape the direction of a research project.

UX research imageOn our User Centred Design training course, we recommend building a profile of the different stakeholders and their requirements early on in the design lifecycle.

This is also a really useful tool for designing a research project and ensuring that all the relevant stakeholders contribute to the research objectives and have the findings presented in a way that is relevant to them.

When and how much?

It is a common misconception that research needs to take months and cost the earth.  Just like cooking eggs, there are lots of methods and not all of them require weeks of preparation and planning.

But there is of course a limit to what can be achieved in a few weeks.  Generally, the greater the number of people you need to involve in research and the harder those people are to find, the longer you will need for your research.

For many pieces of user experience or usability research, we suggest a small sample of participants – which can be as low as 5.  Providing participants are relatively easy to find, this type of research can be done in as little as a couple of weeks.  However, if the people you are interested in researching are quite a varied bunch, you have lots of different questions to answer or you need lots of reliable figures at your fingertips, we’ll usually suggest increasing this sample of participants and the time it will take.

What sort of research is best?

We can help with that one.  It’s one of our favourite topics!  But you may already have an idea.

Mobile phone on UX test scriptsWhen you chat to a potential research partner, we’d suggest that it is better to describe what you are trying to achieve rather than focus on being wedded to one particular type of research.  One of the key questions any research agency will ask is where you are in the lifecycle of the product that you are researching.  This might be anywhere from early on (working out who your audience are and what they need) through to a final design that’s ready to go live in a few weeks.

We’ve got a lot of information on our website about some of the types of research we can offer, from usability and accessibility testing through to ethnographic research, benchmarking and formal audits.

These two Government websites give good, un-biased descriptions of some of the types of research:
https://www.gov.uk/service-manual/user-centered-design/user-research
http://www.usability.gov/what-and-why/user-research.html

And then what?

Once you have figured out what you want to achieve with UX research, the rest should be relatively straight forward.  Have a clear brief and agree what you want an agency to do at the start and you should get meaningful insights to help you move your design in the right direction.

cta-image And of course, one of our team is always happy to have a confidential discussion about your project and help you   decide if research is the right next step, please just contact us.

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