If you’re clear on the concept of user interface designing, you would know that it requires extensive research and data analysis at the backend, which is recognized as UX.
But the question arises why UX is so important in the process of designing an easy-to-use user interface? Isn’t that all about aesthetics?
Well, the reality is that aesthetics only help when they are backed by research. An interface design has to be responsive, efficient and intuitive. A good UI is always user-first, but a well-performed UX gives us inputs to execute what the audience requires and make the interface everything we described earlier.
User research or UX research is the process of researching and gathering information and data regarding the needs, pain points, and behaviours of your target audience concerning the product or service you’re offering.
User research helps you design an interface that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also offers a solution to a real problem.
But it’s not that simple. User research is extensive. It’s a process that is long, ongoing and requires structured efforts.
There is no need for you to get scared because we are here to help you.
This is what we’ll be going through today in this article about user research and its process:
- The concept of UX and UI
- Case studies
- UX: Methods & Process
The concept of UX and UI
Although we have discussed the basics in our previous articles, we thought of building this one on a few fundamentals of the topics.
UI is the process of designing interfaces for different machines and softwares by prioritizing their usability of the same. At the same time, UX research helps UI designers with the inputs required to create a user-centric interface.
Think about it in this way. Developing a successful product is about understanding your customers and meeting their expectations and needs. But the question is, how will you know your audience without UX research?
User research is an approach that UX designers take to understand the audience’s needs to build a product that’s customized for your target audience. Ux research helps bridge the gap between what designers assume is apt and what is apt for your audience, as per the information gathered.
Note that it’s not all about research. The UX design process is all-inclusive of varying stages of the product development lifecycle, like prototyping and interactions that further guide the development of the final product.
Case study: 1
UX research is an ongoing process and is a regular part of the product development lifecycle.
The concept of UI and UX can be confusing. With so many definitions and explanations, relying on one of them could become challenging. However, what you need here is not a definition but an understanding of both.
To develop a successful product, you need to implement UI and UX best practices. For instance, let’s discuss the case of Fiverr. For those who don’t know, it is a platform that helps independent contractors meet businesses that need their services.
As a usual rule of thumb, premium services or products are portrayed through a five-star rating. For some reason, Fiverr chose to do otherwise and showcase the same through a single star next to a number.
Why is this bad?
Well, users might get confused at this stage and figuring out the actual rating becomes a task since most people are habituated to the explicit representation of the same. It takes an extra effort from the end-user to decipher what the designer of the particular product has tried to do here.
Now it may look like a fault on the UI designer’s part since the same interface is designed in such a way that does not help the end user. But the reality is this is the result of a bad UX. It is so because this is the example of input that the UX stage helps you gather to guide what the UI professional designs ultimately.
Case study: 2
Another example of a bad UX is WhatsApp’s delete message features. If you’ve ever mistyped something and deleted it, later on, you would know what happens after that.
The problem with this UX is that it defeats the whole purpose of deleting the text. And anyone who receives the notification of a message being deleted more often than usual comes up with “what did you delete and why?” – you see how this could be problematic right?
For someone deleting a text for the first time, it could be misleading as the text is being blocked here and is not getting deleted. The feature’s function here differs from what it promises to the users. The messaging needs to convey the exact functionality so there are no surprises left for later on.
Though these are not major blunders, people have managed to live with them over time. But that doesn’t mean you can skip the entire UX stage because it means eliminating a crucial part of the product lifecycle development process.
Separating UX from UI is the mistake you don’t want to make as a professional.
UX: Methods & Process
There are many ways you can perform UX research. Typically, it is advised that you maintain a balance between qualitative and quantitative methods of Ux research, so there are no lags.
1. Guerrilla testing
Also named hallway usability testing, it is considered a faster and more abrupt way to test ideas. This research method helps uncover potential user experience problems and receive meaningful feedback, especially when developing a product on a time restraint. It takes 7-8 people and less than 5 minutes, although structure and planning are essential to make the most out of it.
You can also choose to interview the users. All you need is a selection of finely drafted questions that induces the user to describe his impression of the product or service that is the very subject of analyses. The whole process is done on a one-on-one basis and does not include multiple users like we do when we research with the help of focus groups.
3. Focus groups
It is, again, an informal method of understanding the needs and wants of your target audience, which can be done before the initiation of work and in later stages of the product development life cycle. While trying to gather the information through focus groups, you will need around 6-8 people to come together to discuss the concerns regarding the product’s UI.
4. Field Studies
As the name suggests, it’s about getting out of your world and stepping into the users’ shoes to understand where your product is lagging. You will have to start researching in the user’s context for the right strategy execution. Moreover, these field studies could vary depending on whether and how the researcher interacts with the users.
5. In-lab testing
As you must have understood by the term “in-lab”, unlike the Field Study method of research, this is done indoors or in the researcher’s space. To perform this research, you will have to gather 7-8 people in a room and ask them to perform a few tasks on an application or website. The whole process can also be recorded for analyses by the researchers and is, as described earlier as well, done usually in a controlled environment.
6. Card sorting
Usually done to create a strong foundation for the product’s information architecture to improve the product’s navigation further so it matches up to the expectation of users. Card snorting is a UX research method used largely by professionals to improve the structure of their content. It is the right method when
(a) your job is to understand people’s way of understanding and grouping varied concepts and
(b) when the need is to improvise on an existing design and make the UI predictable.
1. User surveys
Questionnaires are drafted with the intention of unveiling the target audience’s true thoughts regarding a particular product or service. Unlike other methods we discussed earlier, this one is a great way to collect relevant data from many people, especially when there are time restrictions. The best thing is that these surveys can be cost-efficient and easy for companies.
2. First click testing
It is a quantitative user research method that tests a product’s usability. Typically, a batch of people are asked to complete a task and are observed closely to see what that particular person would click first to complete the task provided. The test can be done on a prototype or a properly functioning website or application.
3. Eye tracking
As the name of the method suggests, it is a method of UX research that tracks the eyes of the participants to figure out what they are looking at and for how long. This method can easily be paired with other research methods like A/B testing of a product. However, one major drawback is that it can be expensive for companies.
The companies that can not afford to execute the eye tracking method of research usually end up implementing heat mapping as an alternative. It is a user research method done through data visualization, which portrays how a user tends to navigate through the interface, including clicks and scrolls. The heat map tends to bifurcate the most popular parts of the interface from the less focused ones with the help of different colours.
5. A/B testing
Also referred to as split testing, it is a process of finalizing the best version of a website, application etc., by showing different versions of the