User Research Methods for UX

There’s no denying that user research models are plentiful. There are a lot of people proposing a number of testing models, and some of them are impressively intricate, but obviously many fall by the wayside, while others gain an increasing following, as well as accumulate a reputation for success and practicality. It’s difficult to discern which user research methods are actually catching on, and which ones are failing to really take, because few model reviews go into that aspect. They just pick a handful at random, and discuss them, never taking the time to point out ones that don’t seem to work as well, or just aren’t popular and therefore not well enough tested yet. It’s a mess, and today, I’d like to spare you some frustration by pointing out a few that really have caught on, and do show a lot of real world proof of being viable. I’ll try to keep this as non-technical as possible, like I always do. #1 – Expert Reviews Expert reviews involve bringing in a UX expert to look over a design, and review their experience. They provide insight, suggestions and map problems that may be present, based on complex, insider UX sciences entirely. This is a costly one to use, and it’s a bad idea to depend entirely on it, but it’s a good channel to include, if you have the funds for it. A good UX expert will know his stuff, and do what he can to help you make it all it can be. #2 – Direct Usability Testing This is basically a methodical, specially-handled focus testing of the design with samples of the target demographic, performing assigned tasks. Their quickness in engaging the tasks, figuring them out, and how comfortable they seem is a direct indicator for results in this scenario. You have to contend with influencing what you study a bit here, and it involves roping in “civilians”, but it does give you some darn useful data, so this is a good one to use post-expert for release candidates. #3 – Eyetracking We’ve talked about eyetracking before in UX and design articles, and there’s a reason for that. When a user is presented with a design, be it software or web, they immediately see things in a specific order of recognition, which is influenced by layout, emphasis and color balance. Eyetracking, which can help lay out an interface in a way that it presents obvious step by step actions to perform tasks, is a good bridge over the hurdle of learnability in a design. These are just a few of the more popular user research methods being employed, and they do work. I suggest not trying to go the road of adhering to just one of these, but to use all of them in the proper order and integration, to get a complete, solid user research experience. With this level of complete data, you are likely to get a design that satisfies most of the people most of the time, which is something once never believed possible in the digital design industry. Good luck, and stick with it, you’ll do just fine.


Megan Wilson is user experience specialist & editor of UX Motel. She is also the Quality Assurance and UX Specialist at WalkMe Megan.w(at)