The 4 Helpful Sections of Research Methods in UX Design

The 4 Helpful Sections of Research Methods in UX Design logo

Since statistics say that every $1 invested in UX implementation results in a return of $100 in profits, using research methods in UX design can be one of the best investments a brand can make. The purpose of research methods in UX design are to gain understanding of a company’s/brand’s main audience and how to best cater to them. This includes making products they actually want enough to buy and making them and the process of getting them and using them as enjoyable and easy as possible.

The 4 sections of research methods in UX design are:

  • Identifying Customers and Their Wants,
  • Finding Pain Points and Opportunities,
  • Behavior Investigation,
  • Attitudinal Studies.

Research Methods in UX Design

Identifying Customers and Their Wants

84% of customers state they want to be treated like a person, not a number – a mindset that is critical to them picking who they buy from. As such, using research methods in UX design to identify who your main customer base is and what they want is critical for marketing and creating excellent user experience.

User/Customer Persona

The first of research methods in UX design is making a customer persona. A persona is a fictional person to stand in for a person or group. There are three different kinds of personas in UX research: employee, users/customers, and shareholders. This article will be going over the customer persona, which identifies the user’s: 

  • Desires, 
  • Expectations, 
  • Needs, 
  • Behaviors, 
  • Pain points (frequent problems or challenges), 
  • Goals. 

A customer persona represents a group within the target audience that a company/individual is trying to attract. The target audience for a website, app, document, or physical object usually contains different ethnicities, cultures, and ages of people. As such, a company/person can make multiple personas for each of their main demographics within their target audience. There is also the negative customer persona that represents the kinds of people unwanted on or using your site or product(s).

Jade customer persona

A customer persona should be based on real data if possible, but sometimes assumptions must be made about the user’s demographic when data is not available, e.g. when something is just starting to be designed or used. It should be noted that many personas are based on assumptions and are stereotypical. That’s okay as long as the assumptions that make up the persona are reasonable and not based on urban myths, sexism, or racism. For example, ‘most moms that have two kids and drive a car drive SUVs or minivans’ is a reasonable assumption; ‘most women are poor drivers’ is not a reasonable assumption (or appropriate).

There are free tools available for making a customer persona.

User Journey Map

The next of research methods in UX design is making a user journey map. A journey map shows the path taken when someone goes through the steps of a process or procedure. It can be as simple or complex with as few or as many steps as the designer desires to make it. A user journey map shows a user’s progression through buying and/or using a product, site/app, or service. Making a user journey map will allow you to better understand your customers and their needs and adjust and expand your products and services.

PowerPoint User Journey Map

How to make a user journey map has a seven steps: picking a process or procedure with a start and end point, watch a user or make a persona to go through the process, adding user data, identifying the steps of the process, finding the problems in the steps, identifying the ease and users’ mood of the steps, and finding opportunities and need adjustments based on the pain points of the process’s steps. If you don’t want to make a journey map from scratch, Uxpressia allows you to make a journey map for free.

Finding Pain Points and Opportunities

Since 76% of consumers think companies should recognize and empathize with what they, the customer, expect and need, finding consumer pain points in their daily lives or when getting or using a company’s product is vital in empathizing with users.

Red Route Matrix

The first of research methods in UX design for finding pain points is making a red route matrix. Red routes are the main tasks or objectives that users want to complete. As a part of making the red route matrix, you must identify expected user red routes. These are the main tasks or objectives that users want to complete. They will change based on the type of organization and users that make and use the product. Red routes can be anything from (but not limited to):

  • Make an appointment.
  • Lower the volume.
  • Order an item.
  • Find instructions.
  • Check notifications.
  • View your profile.
  • Make a payment.
  • Find out more about the brand, etc.
empty red route matrix

A red route matrix is a way to visually show how often or how critical individual red routes are. It consists of a 4×4 square grid with the number of users on one axis and the amount of times a route is used on the other axis. The squares that have more people going through a route more times have a background of a brighter red (or the text is in red) while the squares that have few people going through a route a few times have a white background.

Card Sorting

Card sorting is one of the research methods in ux design that can be done either by a ux designer or users. Card sorting starts with making cards about the main topics or pages of a website or app as well as desired headings that the topics/pages will be organized in. If budget or time constraints prevent researchers from having users go through card sorting tests, they can do it themselves. Best results happen when multiple users or researchers do the exercise; this results in finding the most common ways to sort topics and pages

A/B Testing

One of the most common research methods in ux design is A/B testing. This is basically a test to see which of two versions of something users like and/or use more, A or B. You can do this passively by using one version for a set amount of time and then switching to the other version to see which version works better. An active A/B test involves bringing in a user and have them interact with two versions separately to see which they prefer. 

Behavior Investigation

Eye/Cursor Tracking

One of the more high tech research methods in UX design is eye and cursor tracking. There are software and companies that specialize in tracking users’ eyes and/or cursor as they complete tasks. Eye tracking involves a camera watching a consenting user’s pupils and corneas to see what users look at on a page and for how long.

Cursor tracking can be done more covertly (although there should be an agreement form of some kind somewhere that users can access that states that cursor tracking is being done for research purposes) with the software running in the background of the site any time a user enters the site. Cursor tracking lets companies and brands know how users think and interact with website elements.

User Usability Testing

One of the best research methods in ux design is the usability test. Usability tests are done by observing a user (or better yet, multiple users) go through a process on a website and then having the user answer usability questions about the website and the process. There is usually a written script that the researcher follows to make sure that the user goes through the correct process and feels at ease when doing the test. 85% of UX issues can be found through a usability test involving five users according to MeasuringU; so make sure to have five users go through the usability test.

Software like CamStudio will help record the test while Chalkmark has a free version that will run and tell you where users are clicking or getting stuck on a website. You could also use a video-conference software that records meetings like Zoom, Teams, Skype, etc. with a way to take notes like Evernote, Google Docs or Word if you have it to watch a user go through a series of tasks.

Attitudinal Studies

Online/email/receipt Surveys

Another among the free methods for ux research is to conduct a survey among users. A survey is a way to gather information from a group of people about something, using a series of questions that users or respondents answer. Online surveys are conducted by getting users to go to the survey URL (usually through email or newsletter attachments or links through receipts upon purchase of items or services) and filling it out (usually with a discount, coupon, or gift card as incentive). Conducting surveys will allow customers to let you know about issues in a process. You can find: 

  • Physical pain points, 
  • Emotional turn-offs or frustrations,
  • Potential additions to make products or tools better,
  • New products or services to add to your brand.

Also, surveys can be conducted anonymously with the user’s personal information kept out of the research study. This method is mostly passive so you don’t have to take time out of your or your customer’s day to conduct this research (most people actually like taking surveys at night rather than during the day). Online surveys are remote so users can take them whenever or wherever they want, making it very user friendly.

Make sure to make the survey on the short side and easy to fill out to make people willing to fill it out. Surveys that are longer, more detailed, and require critical thinking on the user’s part should have a reward for filling them out like a discount, coupon, or free item or demo. You can make a basic survey using:

To find more about how to write up a survey, click here.

User Interviews

User interviews can be done before, during, or after a product’s design and/or development; they involve a friendly and empathetic researcher meeting with a user to ask them questions about themselves, their daily lives, and their worldviews. The interview is recorded, and the user(s) should do the most of the talking optimally. User interviews can reveal a product’s target audience’s:

  • Wants and Desires,
  • Pain Points,
  • Way of thinking about a product and/or brand,
  • In-depth insights into users,

Focus Groups

Similar to user interviews, but involving 4-8 participants and sometimes being cheaper, focus groups involve a moderator guiding a group in discussion of viewpoints and disagreements. General questions are prepared ahead of time and should be light and noninvasive (or atleast noninvasively phrased). Focus groups can reveal or confirm a product’s target audience’s:

  • Wants and Desires,
  • Pain Points,
  • Ways of thinking,
  • Way of associating things with abstract ideas (good for marketing).

5-Second Testing

Getting the first impression just right can be both the most important thing you do and one of the hardest. 5-second testing involves having a user look at a page for five-seconds and then describing how they feel about the page’s design, layout, etc. You can find out what impression someone gets from a website by using UsabilityHub’s free two minute test for a page’s or entire website’s first impression.

Summary

The purpose of research methods in UX design are to gain understanding of a company’s/brand’s main audience and how to best cater to them. This includes making products they actually want enough to buy and making them and the process of getting them and using them as enjoyable and easy as possible.

The 4 sections of research methods in UX design are:

  • Identifying Customers and Their Wants,
  • Finding Pain Points and Opportunities,
  • Behavior Investigation,
  • Attitudinal Studies.

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