How to be a good User Researcher?

Being a good User Researcher
Being a good User Researcher

Do you want to know what are the most important things for User Research? Well, then you have come to the right place! User Research is the most important first step that is taken by a UX Designer. This is a compulsory phase that must be done for the design thinking process.

No matter what your project is, you must know how to do User Research in the correct way. This is because it is important to have the correct data collected before pursuing the design solution. Before moving onto the best practices of user research you should first understand the foundation of the methods you have to use. Different User Research methods have different guidelines for best practice.

All research techniques are divided into 2 main types,

  1. Quantitative User Research

Under Quantitative, methods such as surveys, analytics, and formal experiments are used. The results of these results are mainly reports based on numerical formats. For a quantitative method, it is best to collect objective measurements which are unbiased by the researcher’s hypothesis and personality.

Methods such as interviews, focus groups, contextual inquiries, and field studies fall under Qualitative User Research methods. The results of qualitative research are expressed in themes or categories that occurred during the research.

Quantitative methods are used to get an understanding of the statistical analysis the while qualitative methods are used to get a more in-depth understanding of the user’s opinions and views. Both these types can be used to gather the required information you need but qualitative research methods are highly recommended to be used if you do not have a lot of information on the topic you need to research because this will allow you to explore in-depth about the topic.

User Research
User Research
User Research

Source: The Ultimate Guide to UX research by Maze, User Research: What It Is and Why You Should Do It by Ditte Hvas Mortensen

1. Have a solid plan

Before you start any process, it is good practice to plan out the entire research process. This includes what techniques you are going to carry on for the research and the necessary steps you are going to take throughout each process but most importantly, the reason for the specific research. This is because when you understand the problem clearly, the goals that you are trying to achieve would be clear as day! Therefore, before starting off with a research method you must have a solid plan defined.

For example, if you are going to conduct interviews, you would need to plan the following aspects of the process,

The purpose of the interview.
The specific goal that you are wishing to achieve.
The participants you need for the interviews.
The necessary questions you are going to ask.
Where/How you are going to note down the user’s responses.
How much time would each interview take roughly?
Where you are going to conduct the interview.

To effectively conclude the interviews that you conducted, you can create user personas, journey maps, feature ideas from the information that is collected. These will help organize all the information that you have collected and easily use it in the design process.

When you are gathering participants for user research, you must consider a diverse range of participants. It is good to have a spread of jobs, roles, ethnicity, and gender in order to have a wide range of information regarding your product/service.

Conducting User Interviews
Conducting User Interviews
Conducting User Interviews

Source: How to conduct User Interviews? by Interaction Design Foundation

2. Zero in on facts, not opinions

An important thing to remember is to always keep opinions aside when conducting research. As a designer, you already know that each person’s opinion is different from the others. The same fact applies to user research. Therefore, without focusing on opinions you must focus on facts.

Being able to differentiate between an opinion and a fact is not an easy task. You can master this by observing user and tester behavior. These 2 parties especially have a huge saying on a design product. The tone of how a person talks are different when stating opinions and facts. In addition to this, to properly note down the facts from your users for research, you must ask the right questions. You must understand the problem you are trying to resolve with the correct user research. When you understand the problem clearly, you can come up with the proper questions that are suitable to get the required research work done.

Focus on Facts, not opinions
Focus on Facts, not opinions

3. Have consent from the user

A great practice to have is to always get consent from the user before conducting any user research method. Furthermore, it is good to have a consent form signed by the user. Having consent will not give rise to any issues in the future. When getting user consent, you must make sure to get the consent for using the information given by the user freely on our project without any hassle. If you do not get consent and use some information in your product, after the project is completed there can be an issue where you are accused of using information without any consent. To avoid such issues, it is best to get the user’s consent in a written form.

For any user research method, you should explain the purpose of the research that you are doing. Then you must show the consent form and explain the various choices that they have and how the interview process will be carried out. In addition to this, you must also explain what and where the information provided by the user is carried out. Especially for an interview, you must get consent to recording the interview session.

Always get user consent
Always get user consent

Source: Conducting Ethical User Research by Ditte Hvas Mortensen

4. Just Listen

Being a good researcher is equal to being a good listener. It is important to always listen to what the user is saying. Whenever you ask a question, it is good practice to wait until the user is done talking before you ask your next question. You can ask follow-up questions if you don’t understand what they said. It is good to let the user talk more because the more the user talks, the more they would be comfortable to openly speak about the matter.

Any person would be nervous at the start when talking to a stranger, so it’s better to ask introductory and direct questions to help the user overcome this. Later on, when you feel like the user is more comfortable with you, you can ask open-ended and structured questions. But there’s a catch. User’s don’t always tell you the truth which can lead to the wrong direction. It’s not that the user purposely lies, most people tend to say different things than what they would actually do. The best way to avoid this is by asking the users to tell a story about their experience. This can answer multiple questions you have as well as they will speak on their own experience. When speaking about their own experiences, the percentage of getting wrong information will below.

Always listen to what the user is saying
Always listen to what the user is saying

Sources: What is User Research? by Interaction Design Foundation

5. Note down everything

The backbone of any user research method is writing/recording all facts collected. This can be done in several ways such as for an interview you can record the entire session using a camera or an audio recorder or for a contextual inquiry or observation, you could write down notes in a notebook. It’s a risk to rely on your memory to remember facts from your research session. It is best to take notes on every interesting point that you hear and everything that you write down must stick to a consistent format. If doing the research and taking notes cannot be handled by yourself, you can also bring along a guest notetaker to take down notes instead of you.

For more details on how to take down notes for user research, check the following article: User research note-taking — how to get it right from the start

Take down notes
Takedown notes

Understanding the various user research methods and the proper way they are conducted is the foundation for being a good researcher. Therefore, before conducting any research you must know how that specific technique is carried out. After you collect the required information, you must discuss everything with your organization. You can conduct a workshop with your colleagues who conducted other user research and your co-workers who are participating in the project.

Check out our article 5 Exercises to Conduct a Successful Discussion on User Research Results to understand more on how to hold User Research Result discussions.

Illustration Kit: Drawkit

A UX designer & UI developer who also has a passion for music. Enjoy capturing moments with a click. spend leisure time by creating videos.

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