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What Is UX Research?

Updated: Nov 14


What is UX research - A person sketching out UX mobile design on paper

UX research stands for User Experience Research, which looks to understand people’s motivations, needs and behaviour via observational techniques such as task analysis and ethnography to present useful insights into the design of a product or website.


So to get a better understanding of UX research, we will explain the applications of this type research and how it differs from market research.


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Applications of UX research


UX research should always come first at the start of the design process of a project because if it’s not, the work will only be based on personal experiences and assumptions, which is not objective. UX research will help you improve your knowledge about the users and their motivations, needs, behaviour and goals. It helps to show you how they operate with a system, where they experience problems and their emotional state when interacting with a product.


In looking at people’s behaviours, UX research methods help to resolve everyday problems, use of product and more. It looks at specific deep insights about the user instead of wide-ranging data to give direction into the design of the product and to what extent users’ demands are met. So, looking behind what people are actually saying through their actions.


Throughout each step of the design process, UX research can be applied to provide insights in helping to identify and prove or challenge assumptions, recognise their needs, wants and mental state and to find commonalities amongst the target audience.



The differences between market research and UX research


There are a number of similarities between market research and UX research but there are some big differences between the two.


Firstly, with market research, the primary focus is on the broad picture discovering high level data and information about a specific industry sector with focus largely on attitudes as well as claimed/predicted behaviour. Even though there are two types of market research with quantitative research and qualitative research, the former tends to be used more.


Quantitative research even in hybrid form will run large nationally representative samples that surmise results for the whole population with a small level of margin of error built in. You can gain a picture of general profiles and attitudes with the insights used primarily to support marketing decisions.


While UX research employs a different strategy that focuses on actual behaviour such as how they use a product or resolve everyday problems rather than market size, segments, demographics and attitudinal responses (to a lesser extent) as with market research.


The focus for UX research is very specific deep insights about the users using significantly smaller sample sizes (5 or 10 people) without statistical accuracy in providing direction on how to design a product and the extent to which users needs are met. Looking specifically at what people literally do with the product. Therefore, design guidance and user experience are the main priorities for this type of research.


Is market research and UX research going to merge in the future?


Although there are differences between market research and UX research, there seems to be an emerging trend where the two are beginning to merge particularly with qualitative research. You are now seeing jobs advertised for UX quantitative researcher. Dependent on the company culture, there is closer working relationships between the product team and the insights team, where each are filling in the gaps and the insights team helping to decide what type of research is required.


Many of these teams work in silos as knowledge is power within the organisation but with increasingly restrictive budgets and the rise of digital technology, some organisations may decide to blend the two in the foreseeable future.


Key take outs


In the whole design process, the primary focus of UX research is to gather information as much as possible to highlight expectations and identify needs that need to be met. There is a wide range of tools and methods available, such as tree tests and A/B tests but they all help to support the UX researcher to provide insights to inform development throughout the whole process.


The best user experiences will stem from those UX researchers who take their time to understand the intricacies of the perfect user. Once you know who you are making this for then you will be able to design experiences that amazes and pleases your users.



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