A UX (User Experience) researcher is an individual that is responsible for connecting customers of a product with the people who make and run an organization. They talk to customers (also called users) and through qualitative and quantitative methods they discover what the needs of the users are with the purpose of improving a product. Examples of qualitative methods are interviews and ethnographic observation (observing a person “out in the wild”). Quantitative methods involve anything that has to do with measuring with numbers, such as surveys or usability studies (which are steps that users take to perform different tasks, like buying an item online). UX research can be used before developing a product, mainly to test out ideas to see if people “click” with it, and also later on to either validate a prototype or even a product that has been out for years in the market. UX Research can be applied at any point during the development of a product so that it matches the user’s expectations, thus making it user friendly.
UX research is a relatively new field and not very well known in the tech world when compared to its cousin, UX design. In a nutshell, we use methods taken from psychology, anthropology, marketing and other disciplines to discover people’s attitudes towards a certain topic and then test products that they might possibly interact with in the future. Basically, it is applied behavioral research to uncover insights with the ultimate goal of improving a product by listening to real users. Most people in the field work with software, such as websites or apps, but it can also be done with hardware, such as a GPS device for people who are going hiking.
It is often effective to hire a third party UX researcher to evaluate your destination’s products in order to maintain perspective. However, if conducting usability research yourself, follow these six steps to everyday anthropological research and remember these five components that effect the human condition.
These are a few things that I’ve learned throughout the years while conducting research with people:
1Biology – We are organic beings ?. Physiological needs like sleep and hunger are just part of life. Even bathroom breaks can interrupt a session. Make sure you always have water for the user (if study is in person) and add some breaks when the session passes the 60-minute mark.
2Psychology – We are all unique ?. Some are more on the introverted side. Some are more assertive, others more skeptical, some are just nervous. Be patient when a user isn’t very vocal during a session – they might need more time to warm up to you.
3Culture – We come from all over ?. Sometimes a user’s feedback is influenced by prior interactions with similar products from other regions and countries. Other times, they have difficulties responding because English might not be their native language. Always try to make participants feel at home as much as possible by brushing up on your knowledge of where they come from before a session, and if you are able to conduct research in their own language, don’t hesitate to do so.
4Age – We are an intergenerational society ??. Young people interact with technology differently than those who were born before the Internet was a thing. If your product caters to an extremely broad range of customers, always keep in mind older folks that might not be as tech-savvy as us. Including older age groups in your studies will guarantee a more comprehensive design overall.
5Condition – We are different-abled ?. From the neuro-diverse, to the non-hearing, to the physically impaired. Double check that your product prioritizes accessibility. Add subtitles to videos whenever possible and pay attention to non-verbals (aka gestures) as they make up 80% of all human communication. Even an eye roll can give you invaluable information for your study.