What is a UX Researcher?

What is a UX Researche

Given today’s page title, we’re going to assume that if you arrived here via an internet search, then you’re looking to explore and better understand how UX research works, what a UX researcher does, and the value they bring to an organisation.

With that in mind, what reasons might you be investigating UX research?

  • To explore UX research as a career
  • To implement UX research as part of your product development process, to improve products, marketing, physical processes, or business operations
  • To engage with, build, or employ a UX design and research team

Taking the question a step further, why would you need to do any of those? Well, UX has become crucial to the success of our digital and physical products. Despite its long-standing history, its importance and popularity have grown significantly since the digital boom, especially with more readily available data resources and the ease of its collection.

Why is UX research important?

Building websites and digital products based on what target users want and need has proved crucial for their best success.

Ensuring the happiness of your target audience is the best way to maintain subscribers, boost brand loyalty and confidence, and maximise ROI. Performing UX research allows us to collect data that guides the design team in building the best products, campaigns, copy, architecture, and UI.

The benefits of user research

We conduct UX research to:

  • Appreciate and understand how users interact with websites, apps, and products to enhance the development process
  • Discover unrealised opportunities, find and fix issues, and provide products based on customer needs
  • Design, test, and build products based on user preferences that outperform the competition
  • Deliver an ideal and seamless customer journey

UX is user-centric, putting the user at the heart of everything we do

Let’s get to the most important part of the topic: ‘user’ is the U in UX—user experience. To deliver the best experience—one that converts and makes your products a delight to operate while hitting your stakeholders’ targets—we need to ensure our users enjoy using our products, making their operation simple, seamless, engaging, and trouble-free.

So, to build the best products and processes, we need to know what the end-user needs and wants from our products.

Only by engaging with target users through proven user research methods—such as user interviews, usability tests, monitoring studies, and more, and by analysing performance, behaviours, and feelings—can we start to understand what they want and need and also uncover the elements they don’t know they need that we can deliver.

It takes the guesswork out of the product design process

UX research gathers all of its data from real user feedback. It takes ego and assumption out of the process and ensures that a product is designed and built on data-driven decision-making.

UX researchers are the bridge between users and UX designers and developers

UX researchers are the voice of the people. They explore, ask, listen, and empathise with the users they survey, interview, test, and monitor and relay that information to those responsible for implementing the necessary changes into the design process.

What is UX research?

UX research (or user experience research) delves into how users interact with physical and digital products to improve them.

Conducting UX research involves performing studies such as user surveys, interviews, usability testing, diary studies, mobile testing, generative testing, and so much more to explore human-computer interaction and uncover the user insights that drive us to make positive changes.

When we conduct UX research, we utilise proven strategies and methods using manual and digital tools depending on each project’s goals. One of the longest-standing user research models, the Double Diamond design process (backed and promoted by the UK Design Council) breaks the system down into four stages:

  1. Discover
  2. Define
  3. Develop
  4. Deliver

If you’re new to UX research, it’s a great place to start to understand the methodology behind the systems and processes we use to collect user feedback and uncover the research findings that drive a successful project.

Why not read our dedicated page in the UX24/7 Knowledge Base to learn more about the Double Diamond process?

The role of a UX researcher

UX researchers uncover the valuable insights that drive the highest-performing product design. It’s an essential part of the UX design process as it lays out a specifically designed path, from creating a brief of goals and expectations to the practices most suitable for uncovering essential data and information.

  • Plan, design, and deliver a research strategy and the research plan
  • Budget, timeline, and resource planning
  • Participant recruitment based on target users
  • Choose the best methodologies for the project
  • Design and deliver surveys, interviews, and user testing
  • Gather data and compile easy-to-understand results and presentations from the findings
  • Provide solution suggestions to UX designers and development teams
  • Present findings to designers, developers, and stakeholders

Key responsibilities of UX researchers

UX researchers work closely with the research participants and the design team. They’re responsible for establishing a strategy based on predefined goals, how and when they’ll conduct research, the research methods, and delivering the results in easy-to-digest reports and presentations.

  • Research planning
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Reporting insights
  • Iteration and ongoing testing
  • Monitoring the market for up-to-date industry trends, skills, and new technologies

Skills required

Defining and delivering an overall research strategy, monitoring each practice for every user interaction, and concisely delivering the findings your stakeholders desire takes a special kind of person. The following suggestions are merely a few we believe will enhance your practice and make you a better UX researcher.

Technical skills

  • Understanding UX and UI design and information architecture
  • Product prototyping and wireframing
  • Usability testing
  • Empathy mapping
  • User persona creation

Soft skills

  • Good written and personal communication and collaboration skills
  • Empathy
  • Listening
  • Curiosity, passion, discipline, and self-motivation
  • Critical thinking
  • Problem-solving through design thinking
  • An analytical mindset
  • Creativity
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The tools and techniques of UX research

It’s crucial to understand what the different types of data we gather from our target audience bring to each project.

Quantitative and qualitative research and behavioural and attitudinal research methods

Qualitative research methods: Qualitative research explores why users interact with products in the way they do. It generally delivers long-form answers from user interviews and usability testing. Qualitative data relays the user motivations and opinions we use to transform products.

Quantitative research methods: Quantitative research explores the available numerical data of UX research. Quantitative data is more about how many than how, typically pulling numbers, percentages, and rates from surveys, questionnaires, website and app analytics to reveal patterns, poor-performing pages, touchpoints, or processes.

Behavioural research methods: Behavioral research, such as journey mapping and eye-tracking, observes the actions of your participants, as what users do and say often contradict each other.

Attitudinal research methods: Attitudinal research explores how your target audience thinks and feels, typically from well-crafted interview questions.

Some of the most common UX research methods

Research methods are often divided into four categories: discovery, generative, evaluative, or optimisation. There are countless ways to explore how target users think and behave; the following are a few of the most popular.

  • Creating user personas
  • UX research surveys
  • User and stakeholder interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Usability testing
  • A/B testing
  • Card sorting
  • Tree testing
  • Journey mapping
  • Diary studies
  • Contextual observation, interviews, and inquiry
  • Heatmapping
  • Eye tracking
  • Ethnographic and cultural studies

UX researcher career path and growth

While a degree can provide a good base to enter the field of UX research (ideally, one in design, human-computer interaction, psychology, sociology, or web design and development process), it’s not always necessary. There are several alternative ways to enter the industry:

  • Through study – There are plenty of courses available where budding UX researchers can learn at their own pace, and there’s no shortage of information online to build a comprehensive knowledge base.
  • Through work experience – You can build experience by volunteering or taking an internship with established UX researchers, practising your user experience research skills on friends’ or families’ businesses, or joining network events, online UX communities, or hackathon teams, building a comprehensive portfolio as you do.

Career progression

Breaking the UX design and research industry provides access to various roles and practices. Those connected to that of the UX researcher include:

  • UX designer – Creates the visual and interactive elements of digital products
  • Visual designer – Responsible for the overall look of the product, including colour schemes, typography, branding, and presentation
  • Interaction designer – Focuses on interactive elements such as buttons, menus, and the user interface
  • UX writer – Creates and delivers the written content of websites and apps
  • Product manager – Directs and oversees each UX research project and product development
  • Information Architect – Responsible for the organisation of information, hierarchy, and structure
  • Front-end developer – Writes the code and scripts that drive the visual and interactive elements of websites and apps

The UX24/7 Knowledge Base

If you’re considering a career as a UX researcher, our knowledge base contains extensive information on all kinds of UX research topics. It’s the perfect place to explore UX research methods and is regularly updated with the latest news and fascinating UX research techniques.

Our user research experts are available to help you get closer to your customers. If you would like to arrange a no obligation call, get in touch by emailing us at hello@ux247.com or share your requirement using the form below.

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