How to do the Best UX Design Research

UX design research is one of the most talked about terms in the user-centered design processes.

This process which is employed by user experience designers is both cyclical and iterative and its inputs also serve as the outputs. At the beginning of the process, designers propose solutions depending on the embodied, observable phenomena relating to the problems. They then agree on a design solution and prototype it. Eventually, they test it against its audience and this process repeats itself.

Design research also offers user experience guidelines on investigative techniques that designers use to add insight and context to the design processes. Since the 1960s, people have practiced design research in academic, architectural and industrial fields. User

experience designers employ design research techniques before, during and even after establishing a design solution.


When done during or before the design phase, the techniques are called user research and when done afterward they are known as user testing. User research answers questions relating to who will use the design, how the concept functions in the context of the user’s workflow while the user testing shows the effectiveness of an undercover user experience design.


Why you should conduct UX design research

User experience designers conduct the research to add context to their design process. They also use it to combat natural tendency of designing for themselves or company stakeholders rather than designing for a target audience. Don Norman, a cognitive psychologist explains that people tend to project their own beliefs and rationalizations into the beliefs and actions of others. Without design research, people tend towards self-serving, un-informed design process.

The design teams are usually responsible for user research analysis. The analysis turns data gathered during the research into useful information. Most analysis techniques involve the creation of personas, storyboards, mental models and nomenclature.

Design research involves many unanswered questions and the researchers have to decide the number of users they have to interview before concluding what is wrong. They must also decide whether to conduct quantitative or qualitative research. No single approach or technique is correct. It highly depends on the technique fidelity and context in

which it is applied.


The UX design research methods to apply

Some of the design research methods you may apply in your research depending on your UX design software include:


Service safaris

The service safaris involve getting out into the field and experiencing the service. This tends to be easier for the large organizations and for consultants.


Focus groups

To utilize focus groups, users have to get together and discuss their product or services. The method which has been around for quite some time is highly criticized because it emphasizes on what the groups think and never identifies any unmet needs.



In their research, designers talk to their clients in one way or the other. Interviews are more valuable and allow them to deeply understand users, their background, and their motivations. The data they get from interviews is vital in building a persona.



This is a cheap method designers use to gain insight faster. They are trickier because of two main problems which arise with them. First, there are significant selection biases at the users who fill the surveys including when using incentives. Secondly, asking questions can be hard and, therefore, the participants may not answer the questions as asked.


Field studies

UX design research field studies enable designers to understand exactly what users want and helps them identify those areas where users struggle.

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