User Experience design without research does not exists.
To design for user needs, we'll need to understand their behaviours, goals, motivations and needs clearly. Through research methods such as interviewing, observation and evaluation, we can reduce the guess-work involved into the design process.
Of course, user research is not just a single stage in the product development circle that you can tick off and complete: you have to be talking and observing users constantly, and you'll need to repeatedly return to this stage.
In this section of the Playbook, we've gathered together lots of different tools and techniques that you can use to conduct better research. Check out the sidebar to view them all!
Which research technique should I pick?
Different techniques are designed for different purposes. It can be helpful to group them together according to distinct ways of thinking. The aim is to ensure that our research is adequately broad, and as 'true' as possible. Thinking about these groupings will help you to make sure your research is stronger and more likely to be accurate.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
- Qualitative methods: here, we gather data directly. They're focused on quality of research, and on building understanding through close observation and talking to users directly.
- Quantitative methods: here, we gather large amounts of data. It's focused on quantity, although quality is not irrelevant. Here, we look for trends and broader understandings. It is not easy to find the right research method for your problem. It requires a deeper knowledge to decide what methods should we you and when.
Attitudinal (saying) vs. Behavioural (doing)
The difference between "what users say" and "what users do" can be surprisingly different:
- Attitudinal methods ask "what does the user say".
- They involve active 2-way communication with the user (such as interviewing).
- They help us better understand users' goals and motivations
- We mainly use these in the earlier stages of the product development cycle
- Behavioural methods ask "what does the user do".
- They involve observation and gathering pure data, without being distracted by the user's personal opinion.
- They are particularly useful for validating our designs and assumptions and seeing how people really act.
- These are great for ongoing product development, and later in the product development cycle.
- When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods by the Nielsen Norman Group. This is a great overview and covers this topic in more detail.
- User Research Methods from usability.gov. This is a great collections of resources for running better research. Well worth working through, and it explains a lot of techniques in more detail.