When I first started out, UX research was still a vague concept and focussed solely on studying the experience of the user while interacting with your design/product. And there are different types of research, so how to go about this?
Nowadays UX research can also include validating prototypes and concepts. When part of a marketing team it could mean testing brand designs and messaging before a launch. With this change, each team in a company should have a UX researcher, to study the user’s experience on the team’s topic to collect user and customer insights in order to make better business decisions.
So what types of research can you do as a UX researcher?
Types of research: Qualitative vs. quantitative
When it comes to understanding the experience of the user, you can look at whether to use a qualitative or quantitative research approach. And it is important to make a decision as the two types create very different insights.
With quantitative research, you collect and analyze numerical data. This is a useful type of research when you want to make predictions or generalize results to broader populations. With quantitative research, you look for patterns and averages in your data. The downside of solely collecting quantitative data is that you might miss out on insights about your user that could make a difference in your understanding of their experience.
With qualitative research, you focus on researching user behavior. This research method relies on non-numerical data derived from observations and recordings. Qualitative data is then used to understand the behavior of your user when interacting with your product/prototype. The downside of qualitative data is that you won’t be sure whether your findings are representative of a larger group of users.
Types of research: Attitudinal vs. behavioral
By doing attitudinal research, the focus lies on assessing the user’s bias and feelings towards an experience. For example, this could include asking a user if they like or dislike a specific feature in your product. In comparison, behavioral research focuses on what the user does with the product, the actions, and the interactions.
Behavioral research will tell you what is happening, while attitudinal research could provide information on why that is happening. Keep in mind that there is often a difference between what users say and what they do. Therefore a combination of the two types of research could provide valuable insights into your user’s experience.
Types of research: Generative vs evaluation
These two types of research focus on the broader aspect of the goal of your research. Generative research helps you to define the problem you’d like to design. Evaluation research in comparison helps you evaluate a design that already exists. For example, a prototype, a concept, or a final product.
Often you cannot just pick one type of research and stick with that. When you need information on your user it is often best to combine Research Methods. There are also many tools to help you understand the experience of your user better. I’ve created a simple flowchart to help you define what type of research could be useful for your next project.