Choosing the right user research method for your application development is like cooking a tasty meal! You must select the right ingredients, add it at the right time and cook it to get the right taste and soul into your food.
Similarly, you need the right research method, at the right phase of the software development to produce the best user experience in your application.
Unique digital offerings are launched all the time to target markets that come in the form of digital apps, websites or even products. But it’s important to know if end users can use your product easily while having a good experience using it.
To meet this need, the thriving discipline of user experience (UX) research came into practice. Let’s take a quick look at the importance and types of UX research methods that can be used in an application development process.
What is User Research?
User research, also called user experience research or UX research, is a set of methodologies used to get to know your user’s behavior, journey, and their experiences using a product. Ultimately, it is about empathizing with the users’ intent of using the application.
These days, the application design process involves user feedback at the core of development. Keeping the user in mind while building a product results in a highly-customized product that meets customers at their exact points of need.
The different dimensions of user research are based on the following:
- Qualitative or quantitative
- User’s psychological perspective (behavioral vs. attitudinal)
- Stages of product development
Let us look at how each dimension unfolds to help us know our users better.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
Qualitative research is conducted to understand how users think and feel about a product or application. This is not only about numbers, but more about user pain points, journey into the applications, challenges, motives and, most importantly, the drive to use the application.
Quantitative research methods, on the other hand, involves collecting larger amount of data than qualitative research. It focuses on collection, measurement and analysis of the numerical data which give insights of user behavior and attitude.
Each type of research method has a specific objective. So, adopting a single research type may not be able to provide a complete user insight. However, what we can do is consider the availability of resources and project context. Enabling us to choose the right set of methods that belong to either type or a combination of both methods.
Behavioral vs. attitudinal research
Behavioral research is about observing the activities of users on your applications, while attitudinal research is to learn more about the users’ opinions about a feature or application as a whole. However, there are some methods that combine both behavioral and attitudinal insights.
Research methods according to application development process
Now that we have seen the user research methods in two dimensions, let us learn about their implementation in the context of usage in any application or software development process.
Broad phases of development:
- Ideation phase
- Development phase
- Launch phase
This is the first phase of the process. This consists of the initiation steps, requirement analysis and planning of the attributes to be included into the application.
Research methods can be used in two ways, but we recommend getting insights on the existing application for further improvement or future application development.
Common methods used
Diary studies: Participants are given a tool to record their day-to-day activities using the application. Also, diary studies can be used to learn about the general user behavior, based off which the application can be developed.
Field studies: Field studies are conducted in real-life environments where the application will be put in use. This could include a researcher observing the participants in their workplace or setting where the application will be used. Thus, helping the researcher understand the ground reality.
Surveys: This is more of a quantitative perspective from which you can get facts of users’ behavior. Surveys can be administered through emails, website or application pop-ups or exit surveys for users that end their session.
Focus groups: This is to help understand what the users felt when interacting with the product or service. This enables people to share their stories and give a picture of user motivation, circumstances, experience with the product and subsequent events of using the application.
Interviews: This is another way of analyzing the users’ perspective of an application or a method to derive insights on what they look forward to. A researcher interviews users, either in person or virtually, with a set of structured or unstructured questions to discuss a topic of interest in depth.
Eye-tracking equipment helps track an accurate path of a user’s eye movement when using a website or mobile application. This gives researchers an idea of specific sections of an app or product that attracts users’ attention.
Clickstream analysis is used to analyze the recording of sessions or pages of an application with the help of a screen recording software incorporated into your site through which the data can be collected. This can either be used to analyze an existing application and learn from it or analyze an application at the launch phase.
Competitive analysis is used to understand how competitors build their offering using best practices across the industry and learn from such research insights for a better service solution.
Other quantitative techniques include analyzing existing applications with established analytics like web analytics, mobile analytics, data mining, etc.
Important steps of the design and development of applications fall under this phase of the process. Scope of user research ensures the product is developed as expected for a delightful user experience.
This highlights the need to check how users feel about the features of the application under development.
Common methods used
Card sorting: This method enables users to arrange items logically and assign them into respective visualized groups. Therefore, helping to formulate the information design in the application by reading into users’ conceptual models.
Tree testing: This checks the availability and logical flow of information in a website/application. The goal of this experiment is to determine whether information can be found easily or not.
Prototype testing: In the initial stages of software development, it is useful to have an interactive prototype testing. This can be carried out with a software tool with a web prototype or even paper.
Desirability studies: Here respondents are given a variety of application layout-design options and then asked to match each layout design with a set of characteristics selected from an exhaustive list.
Usability studies can be carried out either moderated in person by a facilitator or remotely as an unmoderated study. Moderated remote studies are conducted with the help of a screen sharing software and remote management settings to record and analyze the user experience.
In unmoderated usability experiments, a group of trained participants are given a product to test along with a recording device to record their feelings and experience as a video or audio which is then made available for further analysis.
Participatory design: A cooperative methodology in which users/ stakeholders are involved. Respondents are given the needed creative resources to build a model that provides them with their ideal user experience with an explanation of why they built it that way. This is an empathy driven approach.
The launch phase of the software development process includes steps of testing, delivery and maintenance of the application.
User research methods in this phase help in analyzing the real application performance against the users expected experience. Also, this is a great phase to check if there is any scope for improvement or optimization.
Common methods used:
Benchmark studies: This is the process of analyzing the performance of an application or product over the stages of evolution; from prototypes to upgraded versions. This can be carried out on a stand-alone basis for your application or benchmarking with your competitor products.
A/B testing: A technique of having two or more versions of your application and letting two groups of users interact with it at the same time to check which one performs better. Based on the results, the better performing version is picked.
Other methods include satisfaction surveys, diary studies, moderated and unmoderated usability experiments.
Selecting the right set of user research methods
Selecting the right set of methods according to the phases of software development is key to understanding your users properly.
It’s in your best judgement to select the best set of research methods that’s custom to your application and context. If you stumble at any stage, you can get the experts to help you out.
As mentioned earlier, this is a perfect ingredient if cooked for the right amount time for a scrumptious meal.
Great days ahead!