“My product was designed to be customer-friendly… Why is it still not selling?” 🤦 Before designing a product your customers will love, you need to first understand WHO they are. 👥 Ensure your product’s success by learning about what exactly a UX researcher does, here in this article.
As defined by the Interaction Design Foundation, UX (user experience) research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements, to add realistic contexts and insights to design processes. It is the role of the UX researcher to adopt various methods to uncover problems and design opportunities. In doing so, they reveal valuable information that can be translated into the design process.
An important variable in successful user research is timing. WHEN you do the research is crucial. However, before you can decide when to do user research, you must first clarify WHY you are doing user research.
Before conducting research throughout the project timeline, it is important to clarify these questions because, at different stages in your design process, you will most likely need different kinds of insights.
WHY? 👉 WHEN? 👉 HOW? REPEAT.
Why do User Research?
“Quantitative data tells you what’s going on, but it doesn’t tell you why. You might see users spending a lot of time in the checkout form and then dropping off. But [what it] doesn’t tell you [is] that they wanted to see a conversion in their local currency before paying.
Qualitative research reveals what hard numbers obscure. And you don’t even need that much of it.”
– Ed Orozco
User research typically falls under the category of qualitative research, which describes subjects’ feelings, attitudes, and perspectives on a particular topic or concept. (Quick shoutout to Brené Brown for amplifying the importance of this topic and facilitating it to become more mainstream).
Here are a few reasons why user/qualitative research is so important to design a successfully user-friendly product:
- To ensure you have a good understanding of your users. (What does their everyday life look like?; What motivates them?; etc.). Only then can the design team work on a design that is truly relevant.
- To ensure your design has a high level of usability. (Are the designs easy and pleasurable to use?)
- To understand the ROI on UX design. In other words, user research helps you evaluate the impact of your design. For example, after the product launch, you can gather data on the number of customers and/or efficiency of work processes.
When to do User Research
Now that we defined the importance of the tasks a UX researcher has, it is time to see how each type of research fits into a simplified timeline for product development.
The research that takes place at the start of the development process is a very critical step to ensure product success. Thus, a chunk of this initial research must occur at the very beginning of your timeline to ensure that you create relevant products and/or influence what type of product you will be developing.
Next, it is important always to do user testing early in the development phase, so that you can change the design if you learn changing the design will benefit the product. Also, it is important to keep doing user testing intermittently throughout your timeline to stay proactive and continually improve the product. Even if you aren’t deep enough into development to make a legit prototype, paper prototypes do provide insight, so we highly recommend making use of them. Read our blog on UX prototyping to see how to get the most out of your user testing.
Lastly, you need to do research to measure the impact that your design has on the product. Since the success of your product usually takes place after the product is released, this means the job of a UX researcher is still a crucial part of the team once the product is launched.
Because how else are you going to know if what you did in the design worked?
Once the product is launched, these studies can lead to crucial development and design changes. If you are working on web-based products, such as apps and websites, it makes sense to keep evaluating on the user experience after the first release. This is why we recommend a quarterly UX Audit for newer SaaS products and websites.
How to do User Research
Well, this is up to the UX researcher you hire. The awesome thing about hiring a UX researcher is you do not have to worry about the strategy behind gathering user insights, as this is part of the role of a UX researcher. Now that we understand what UX research is, let’s dive into what this looks like as a job position.
What Does a UX Researcher do?
Discovering user needs, behaviors and emotions are absolutely vital to designing a user-friendly product. If you do not completely know who your user is, your product will not be as successful as if you did completely know who your user is.
This quote by Brené Brown, the Queen of quantitative research, is also true for your user. Although it is important to know what the user already knows about technology and common web features and interactions, it is more important to know who your user is. How do they live their lives? What kind of emotions do they feel? What are they excited about and inspired by?
A UX researcher is an investment, yes, but learning about who your user is– on a human level– will pretty much guarantee your product designs will be more successful.
The purpose of the UX researcher, also referred to as “user researcher” or “design researcher,” is to reveal human insights in order to facilitate the application of design. Essentially, a UX researcher helps everyone who is apart of the product development team focus on the user.
UX Researcher Job Description
According to a recent job description posted by Google, as a User Experience Researcher (UXR), you will “create understanding and empathy around user needs, stated and unstated, for your entire product team including designers, product managers, and engineers. You will do so by conducting primary research, exploring the behaviors and motivations of our users through methods like field visits, ethnography, surveys, usability testing, and logs analysis. Your research will help us create useful, usable, and delightful new products and features for people as well as continually innovating on our existing products. You’ll inspire change at all stages of product development by delivering compelling, written, in-person and visual presentations on your findings.”
The Careers & Enterprise Company wrote some of the key responsibilities of a UX researcher include:
- Planning, designing, & conducting the usability testing process from developing user recruitment through to test moderation, analysis, & reporting.
- Conducting research to gather insights for new product & concept developments (including user requirements gathering and early-stage concept and prototype testing, guerrilla research, and other approaches to ensuring the user need is fully understood in the service design).
- Modeling insights gained from user research into formats to enhance organizational understanding of our users – such as personas and user journey maps.
- Working with managers, as required, to devise appropriate research strategies to generate focused insights and to convert concepts into high-quality stimulus material.
- Working closely with designers & developers to turn user data into actionable product/service requirements that feed into prototype development, and influence product direction.
- Applying knowledge in human factors and the user-centered design process to product and service design in an iterative development environment.
- Presenting findings and related design/business recommendations and customer insights to senior decision-makers.
- Promoting user-centered design principles and best practice across the organization.
I included these bullet points because I think this gives a detailed understanding of some of the tasks that belong to UX research. Ultimately, as a UX researcher, it is your job to build up an understanding of the target user for your product, and share the users’ needs, behaviors, and pain-points to the entire product and design team to have a more user-friendly product.
UX Researcher Salary and Portfolio
According to PayScale, the average user experience researcher salary is $84,047 per year.
According to CareerFoundry, a UX Researcher’s portfolio should include the following sections:
- The problem or design challenge your research aimed to solve.
- The team you collaborated with.
- The research process (how did you go about solving the problem?).
- The tools you used to recruit, collect and analyze data, and present insights.
- The final outcome and handoffs.
Lastly, in terms of what should be included on your resume as a UX researcher, I would recommend highlighting your experience in a relevant field that required knowledge of human behavior, such as cognitive science, behavioral economics, anthropology, sociology, or psychology. Ideally, you want to be adept at reading people and empathizing with the user, while equally comfortable handling data and analytics.
In addition, an ideal candidate for a UX researcher should have an understanding of the design thinking process, as well as a passion and know-how for influencing design strategy. According to CareerFoundry, obtaining these skills can be done through identifying research opportunities with a current employer, volunteering for a design project with an external organization (such as VolunteerMatch), or completing research for a personal project of your own. In brief, practice makes perfect, and building on these skills as often as you will prepare you for your future role.
Last Thoughts on UX Researcher
As a UX researcher, you must understand the people who use your product. This data can be obtained through qualitative interviews & observations. Understanding WHO the user is versus WHAT they know is important. You need to know the human behind who will be using your product, which means their behaviors, lifestyle, and needs in order to successfully design and launch a product they will use.
Here at WANDR, we strive to learn and deeply understand our users’ needs, behaviors, and motivations to gather insights that inform product strategy and the direction of our designs. Book a call with us today if this is a service you are interested in.
What other questions do you have about a UX Researcher?
Let us know in the comments below and we will get back to you shortly!