People's attention spans are getting shorter - they browse on multiple screens at a time and have lower patience thresholds. In such a scenario, brands can only win over users by delivering what they are looking for quickly, or risk losing them.
UX research can help brands do that. It gives them valuable insights into the user experience, helps them develop a user-focused design, and acts as the foundation of a great user experience. As we progress from the age of digital immigrants to that of digital natives, user research has become even more crucial.
So, what does it take to conduct good user research?
In this article, we will cover 10 user research tips for beginners and advanced researchers to help you conduct UX research effectively.
Let's dive in, shall we?
5 Best User Research Tips for Beginners
If you’re starting on your user research journey, here are five tips that could form the foundation for your successful research.
1. Define Your Objectives Before Starting User Research
The first step to conducting successful user research is setting clear goals. Start by writing down why you are doing research and what you would like to achieve.
Defining a clear objective at the beginning will help you identify the research methods you will use, what you will discuss with users, and how it will help you uncover valuable data. For example, let’s say you want to understand why users abandon carts on your website. Your research objectives can be:
- Discover a user’s motivations behind adding a product to the cart.
- Understand why users fail to complete the purchase after adding products to the cart.
- Understand the pain points users encounter during the process to identify what improvements you can make to encourage them to complete the purchase.
Remember, keeping your main objectives and goals in mind when you conduct user research will ensure that you are not wasting your time and money.
2. Learn to Moderate Remote User Interviews Properly
Moderating remote interviews are tough; even the best in-person moderators can take time to master it. There can be a lot of problems from connection to audio issues that can disrupt your sessions, so you should check and prepare for everything in advance.
To run a great remote user interview, close everything except your moderation guide and the tool you use to connect with your user. Avoid multitasking, as the smallest distraction can prevent you from being able to engage with your participants.
No multitasking also means no notetaking, as it could distract both you and the user. If you keep losing eye contact, it might be harder for you to build a rapport with them, which is already harder in a remote interview.
Finally, once you start the discussion, speak slowly and clearly, and give the participant time to think and respond to your questions. Even with the best connection and tools, there's a little bit of a cognitive delay when you are not present in person, so it's easier to jump in or talk over people.
3. Craft Better User Research Surveys
Creating a survey is easy – creating a good one is harder. To craft a good user survey, ensure you are asking the right questions - the ones for which you really need answers.
Why? Because the longer your surveys are, the higher the abandonment rate will be. So, resist the temptation to ask every question you can think of, and instead focus on the minimum number of questions that will provide the answers you need. Focus on the problem at hand and the goals of your current research. Don’t conduct the research to collect extra data just so that you might be able to use it in the future.
Also, make sure that your questions have an option to include subjective replies. Not sure how to do that? It’s simple - when you create a list of options, leave space for users to add the response that matters to them. Sure, it might make your research a little longer, but it is extremely valuable to hear realistic feedback from users.
4. Frame and Ask Questions the Right Way
Research is a great way to learn how your users think. However, the data you get will only be as good as the questions you ask. So, learning to craft good questions is paramount to conducting a successful research study.
When crafting your research questions, remember that they should be actionable and specific. Be careful to keep your questions neutral, as the way you word your questions can skew responses.
Also, while framing your questions, remember that they should not lead the participant to an answer. When you are writing down your potential questions, do not create any leading questions that could influence the user’s responses. For example, one example of a leading question could be "You like using this product, right?"
It is also important to avoid asking multiple questions simultaneously, which could lead to you getting incomplete answers. For example, if you want to ask a user how long they have been using your app and what made them decide to use it, you should split it into two parts to ensure you get answers to both parts of the question.
5. Pick Your Research Methods Wisely
User research broadly falls into two categories: qualitative and quantitative. Examples of qualitative research include usability tests, focus groups, interviews, diary studies, and participatory design workshops, while examples of quantitative research methods include online surveys, polls, and questionnaires.
The main distinction between quantitative and qualitative research is that quantitative research produces data representing numeric information, such as the percentage of site visitors filling out a form. In contrast, qualitative research takes the ‘what’ and finds out the ‘why’ behind it.
Both these methods are important, and any research can be made even more insightful when both methods are used together. So, do not limit yourself to any one method. Multiple courses of action are sometimes needed to understand your users, such as a survey, focus group, user interviews, etc.
You need to pick the research method depending on the nature and scale of the project to ensure that the results are effective. For example, if you need to understand why your users do what they do, you need to use qualitative research methods as they reveal why the user behaves in a certain way. But if you want to understand your users in terms of percentages and statistics, quantitative methods might be the better option for you.
In short, before picking a research method, try understanding the problem you are trying to solve and the questions you need to answer. This way, you can pick the most suitable method to help you achieve your objectives.
5 Advanced User Research Tips & Techniques
If you already have the basics down and are looking to level up your user research efforts, here’s how you can do so.
1. Embrace the Future of Online Research
Remote research is the way forward. It has certainly increased in popularity since COVID-19 started. If you’re one of the few who hasn’t embraced this trend yet, you should definitely consider it.
Remote research is not only easier to conduct, it is also faster, saves time, and makes your research inclusive. Also, conducting user research remotely instead of in person can help you save a lot of money!
There are countless benefits of conducting user research remotely if you leverage the right remote research tools. Let’s look at how we can do that.
2. Pick the Right Research Tools
The research landscape is replete with tools offering varied features. It is imperative to pay special attention when picking research tools for your business because not all research tools are created equal. For example, some might have a difficult-to-use interface, and some might not have a complete suite of solutions to meet all your needs seamlessly. In short, not all user research tools are worth the investment.
So how can you pick the right user research tool for your business, given that there are so many options out there? Remember that choosing the right one can speed things up, make your work more effective, free up time, and make your UX researcher leaner.
The best method for picking the right one is to
- Determine your budget.
- Pick a comprehensive solution that saves you both time and energy by bringing quantitative, qualitative, and online panels under one roof to deliver research insights faster.
- One that helps you get unbiased insights.
- One that lets you create a single repository for all your UX conversations so that there are no data silos within the business.
3. Know When to Stop User Research
We all know user research is the key to delivering a good user experience, but it takes time and money. Knowing when to wrap up your study after you get the right results is just as important as conducting it.
If you have done user research studies before, you may have noticed the same behaviors and responses after interviewing a few people. That probably means that you have reached a saturation level in the answers or value you are going to get from the current research, at which point you should end it.
Also, when to stop depends a lot on the type of research. For example, in quantitative research, you work with numerical data, so you need to have enough participants to make statistically significant results about your findings. But in qualitative research, you should look for repeating patterns of behavior, not just statistical significance. Understanding this will help you decide when to conclude your research.
4. Study Your Users and Pay Attention to Their Emotions
While you can understand your users by listening to or having conversations with them, you need to observe them too. By observing users, you can uncover their true needs, wants, and motivations, which will help you drive superior results.
In fact, we do a huge disservice to users by acting purely on what they say. Instead, we should seek to better understand what they are trying to convey. Your users are human, and humans are cognitive, emotional beings. So, you must measure their emotions to understand their behavior fully. After all, this is what user research seeks to uncover.
Remember, good researchers understand their users' needs, but great researchers understand their emotions and sentiments that drive those needs, too.
How can you do that? AI-powered technologies like facial coding and eye tracking are the ultimate key to unlock the sealed vault of your user's mind. By using a tool like Decode, you can gain unbiased human insights from your user interviews by measuring their attention, engagement, and emotional responses.
5. Learn to Present Your Findings Effectively
As a researcher, your role is not just about uncovering the right insights - it’s also to present your insights in a way that can be easily understood and implemented. After all, your research is futile if nobody can use the information. So, find a format that is easy to understand and share your learnings with your team.
We strongly recommend creating an executive summary of the key information and findings into a bite-sized, scannable version, as most people will not have time to read lengthy reports. Also, when creating them, include a mixture of visuals and text to break the monotony and draw attention to what you need to.
Finally, summarize your observations, why it matters, and what the team should do with it. Let's say you are conducting a usability test on the checkout flow of an e-commerce page, and you’ve found out that it is tough to fill in the credit card information because users can’t enter the date correctly. Don’t just say it is difficult for customers to enter their credit card details - tell them how it impacts the business. Explain to them clearly how complicated checkouts can hurt conversions. You can also use statistics to illustrate your point. For example, you can say “17% of US online shoppers have abandoned an order in the past quarter solely due to a long or complicated checkout process”.
By saying that this issue makes users drop out, resulting in abandoned sales and a potential huge loss for the company, you can help people understand why these insights matter and what they should do about it.
Whether you are just starting with user research or have been doing it for decades, research requires you to evolve to stay competitive. Just when you think you have got it all figured out, changes occur in the industry that force you to change with them. Think of research as a never-ending process and use these user research tips to not only survive but thrive in this ever-changing world.