User research is the foundation of any accurate product design and without serious research, you might find yourself lost when pinpointing the perfect user experience. If you haven’t conducted user research before it can be intimidating, and you might struggle to grip how you’ll conduct it and why it’s important.
In this article, we will define user research, walk through the popular ways to conduct it, highlight its importance, and demonstrate how to use it in conjunction with visual collaboration.
What Is User Research?
User research is the process of conducting tests and gathering feedback from your users to determine their perspectives, preferences, and pain points.
User research provides the foundation for many aspects of your product/service and will help inform any design decisions or user experience changes you’re looking to implement.
While these changes can be made by looking at industry standards and deciding internally, the best way to create new iterations is to ask your users what would be best and then add some personal flavor to it.
When you listen to the user’s opinions, it helps create something that will be visually appealing to them and also helps build the optimal user experience. Their feedback will be informed by their everyday use, and this is something that is irreplaceable by any internal analysis.
There are a ton of different types of user research and, whether they’re focused on building a refined user experience or creating a persona map, they all are important and effective.
While these areas of research are all different, they’re united by one shared factor. The end goal of all user research is creating a solution that puts the user at the very center. Here are the popular ways of conducting user research.
Surveys are an incredibly popular method of user research because they provide an instant window into how your users think and can provide valuable insight into their unique perspectives.
Surveys are usually conducted from an online platform like QuestionPro and allow you to ask some brief questions to your users about their experience, their preferences, and any direct feedback they’d want to provide.
Moderated User Testing
Moderated user testing is the most thorough and in-depth way to conduct user research. As defined on the TryMyUI blog, moderated user testing is: “… a testing method that integrates an industry expert to oversee the usability test. Their presence usually provides a more in-depth analysis of the test and its outcomes”.
These can be in-person or over the computer, but either way, they will be directly monitored and guided by the moderator in real-time.
Moderated user testing is perfect when you want to highlight the differences between two design flows or pick out small details with the user that might be hard to understand from just a description.
While it is a very effective method of testing, it’s very time-consuming and can be expensive. These are the only pitfalls of using this testing method and while it isn’t perfect, it’s a very thorough method of understanding the user’s experience and finding the gaps that you want to plug.
Unmoderated User Testing
Unmoderated user testing is the alternative to moderated testing and alleviates some of the difficulties that arise from having a moderator.
This method of user research effectively asks users to accomplish the same tasks as the moderated testing session but in this case, there is no moderator. They will instead respond to virtual prompts and answer questions based on their experience.
Unmoderated user testing is great because it’s flexible, cheap, and can reach a large audience of testers. While these are all great upsides, it’s not as thorough and precise as moderated testing, so it’s up to you to gauge which option is best for your business.
Another great user research option is conducting focus groups. Focus groups give a shared perspective to issues and enable you to gather many different perspectives all at once.
Conducting a focus group increases the level of collaboration in your customer research and is a helpful thing to do if you’re looking to gain a ton of different pieces of insight on the same question.
Using an online whiteboard is a great option when looking to conduct a focus group online and allows you to gather your group on a shared interface so they can document their struggles with each other. We’ll talk about this more later.
Journey mapping is an exercise that can be conducted with users to gain a more accurate picture of how they use your product/service and what their journey looks like.
Customer journey mapping helps you break down how the user navigates your product/service and what specific steps they struggle with the most.
This is a great way to expose their pain points and ensure that your design changes are addressing the correct area.
User Research Importance
User research can be applicable to most any business, but its use cases are mainly helpful when conducting UX research or when defining a user persona.
These fields benefit the most from direct feedback from the users because their main goal is a direct reflection of the user or their experience. Despite their differences, these fields share many of the same advantages that user research has to offer.
Here are the biggest advantages of conducting user research.
Reduced Scope Creep
User research helps create expectations for both your team and for the users. This is critical when planning design changes or a usability overhaul because you need to create boundaries of what will be included in order to eliminate scope creep.
Scope creep can be hard to avoid, but taking clear expectations from your users and using that to inform your product roadmap is a great way to eliminate scope creep.
If you want to learn other ways of eliminating scope creep, check out our guide on the Moscow Analysis.
Ensures a Relevant Solution Is Delivered
User research is vital because it allows the user to tell you exactly what they think. When you have such a clear window into their preferences and perspective, you’re able to create solutions that are relevant and helpful to them.
Without conducting user research you might find yourself iterating multiple times on solutions that don’t address the core concerns of your customers. User research helps avoid this issue entirely and ensures that the solution you provide will be accurate and relevant.
Builds Empathy with the Users
As we’ve stated, one of the biggest benefits of user research is gaining a direct line of communication with your customers. Being able to hear from them in a 1:1 setting creates a strong level of empathy for their pain points and means you can establish a positive relationship with them.
Creating empathy is one of the best ways to ensure that you create accurate and important solutions, and conducting user research is a very important step in creating this empathy.
If you want to capitalize on creating empathy for your users, check out our guide on empathy mapping.
Helps Evolve Product Design
Product design is incredibly important when it comes to the user’s experience, and ensuring that your design meets their expectations is critical to retaining their business.
User research is a key way to gain this feedback and helps ensure that your design features evolve alongside the expectations of your user.
Creates a Pleasurable User Experience
All of these advantages hint at this, but it’s important to address it directly. User research helps create a pleasurable user experience.
When conducting user research, you want to improve the customer’s experience, and getting direct feedback from them is the best way to understand what exactly they enjoy and what frustrates them.
By asking them directly, you ensure that the experience they have will be the best it can be and will address their important concerns. This is one of the biggest advantages of conducting user research and a reason that no company should overlook it.
How User Research Can Utilize Visual Collaboration
User research is an extremely valuable tool to use for your business, but you need a platform to organize your data and conduct accurate tests. If you’re conducting moderated/unmoderated user testing then TryMyUI is a great platform, and if you want to conduct surveys look no further than QuestionPro.
But if you want to organize all of your data in a shared place that people can contribute to and edit freely, you might want to consider using an online whiteboard to conduct your user research.
Online whiteboards allow you to gather a large number of people and interact on a shared interface and even conduct virtual workshops with them. Engaging in visual collaboration with your users and having them sort their feedback on the board is priceless, helps save time for everyone, and allows you to cement your results in digital permanence.
While there are many reasons to conduct your own user research, being able to use an online whiteboard makes the process of conducting the tests much easier and more digestible.
User research is a key part of any customer-facing business, and getting in the pattern of doing it regularly is critical to evolve your user experience. If you liked this guide make sure you check out some of our other articles about addressing customer needs and the best templates for the hybrid workspace.