5 User Research Methods I’m Thankful for This Year

When was the last time you explored new user research methods? As a user experience designer it’s easy to come up with any old design. The hard part is knowing what the user expects from your design, and how they want the experience to make them feel. The only way to receive this information is by implementing user research strategies. While there are so many research methods to choose from, I selected five methods which I feel have benefitted me most in the past. I am truly thankful for these methods, to the participants who gave up their time to help improve our products, and for the research gained from performing each one. They not only helped create a more user-friendly design, but also taught me a lot about what users expect from my designs, and how I can provide the best user experience possible.

User Research Method #1: Usability-Lab Studies

This method takes place in a lab. Participants sit one-on-one with a researcher and are provided with a number of scenarios that lead to the usage of a specific interest within the product or software. This method helps optimize UI design and work flows, and ultimately provides the researcher with a more well-rounded understanding of the user’s behavior. The tasks required should be actionable but realistic, for example, requesting that the user uses a certain website to find a TV show they are interested in viewing.

#2: Participatory Design

The success of participatory design is solely dependent on the participant. Each participant is provided with various creative materials so they can create their ideal user experience in order to properly express what is most important to them. An example for this user research method would be asking participants to draw their ideal user interface is a great way to gain understanding of your audiences’ visual preferences. This method is used across the board in fields such as software design, graphic design and product design.

#3: Interviews

An interview includes a simple face-to-face discussion between the participant and researcher in order to find out what the participant’s thoughts are on say, the design of the product, or the colors and graphics of a new app. If both parties are dedicated to the success of the conversation, and the participant is willing to speak honestly, then this is a very straight to the point and successful method to implement. User Research Methods

#4: Focus Groups

Focus groups are demographically diverse groups of 3-12 individuals who participate in a discussion about various topics about the layout or idea of the product. They are then asked to provide verbal and written feedback on the topic through various exercises.  The diversity of the group allows the tester to receive a well-rounded conclusion, and ensures that the results aren’t skewed. User Research Methods

#5: Concept Testing

Concept testing is exactly what it sounds like. Testing the concept of the product is a great way to gain insight as to whether or not the idea of the product is marketable. A researcher states the general concept to participants either online or in person in order to gage their reaction and determine if it meets the needs of the user. For example, if a company has a new feature idea for one of their apps, they would explain the concept to their participants in order to see if it excites and entices them, or if the idea is a bust.
Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)walkme.com