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What does a UX researcher actually do?

For some years now, there has been a consistent increase in the demand for digital products by individuals and organizations alike. Research by IDC proofs that 90% of enterprises plan to incorporate technology into their processes by 2025. This increase in demand implies that tech companies must start creating products that will be accessible to diverse people.

Thus, an essential consideration in the product development process is to create products that users will interact with easily, irrespective of their peculiarity. The process of creating desirable products with easy interactions for users is what we call the UX design process.

The UX design process must start with an accurate understanding of the target users' pain points, needs, and motivations. Thus, foremost in the UX design process is user experience (UX) research.

UX research is a process that ensures that designers create products that meet the demands of target users. The process starts with UX researchers conducting user research to get insights from prospective users. These insights serve as a guide for UX designers during product design.

After this, UX researchers have to communicate with stakeholders to analyze the data from research and explain how it aligns with business goals. Also, they conduct usability tests to check the product's ease of use with target users and check for feedback after the product's launch. These are UX research methods that are pivotal to designing a great product. So, we can say UX research is the starting point on how to design the user experience of a product.

Thus, the role of the UX researcher is diverse. It spans from the beginning of the product development process to the end. This is because it is essential to connect with users at every step of product development, and UX researchers are the right fit to do that.

In this article, I am going to explain what a UX researcher actually does. I will explore the details of conducting UX research, the importance of each UX research method, and the skills you need to become a UX researcher.

What does a UX researcher do?

The primary role of a UX researcher is to uncover users' insights that will help designers create designs that align and resonate with user behaviors, pains, and aspirations. This is why it is called user experience research, i.e., researching to know how users can have a good experience with a product.

What a UX researcher does

1. Crafting a UX research strategy

UX research strategy details the research methods and activities that will help UX researchers uncover users' insights and clearly understand what users feel about a product. To craft a good strategy, you need to answer some questions.

  1. What is the purpose of the research?

  2. Who is your target audience?

  3. What do you want to research?

  4. Which user research methods are suitable for this project?

2. Conducting user interviews

User interviews are usually one-on-one conversations with target users to understand their thought patterns on a design concept. These conversations help you to identify the core pain points of prospective users.

For example, if the design team is planning to build a product that helps people locate car hiring services; your role as a UX researcher is to engage those that will likely need that service, (maybe people at airports) and ask them how the inability to get car hiring service affects them.

To do this, your first task in conducting these user interviews is to draft an objective for the research and prepare questions that will initiate quality conversation between you and users. In fact, this is the first step in conducting UX research.

Thus, it is important that user researchers have good communication skills that will enable them to receive good responses during user interviews.

3. Conducting usability testing

Usability testing is one of the UX research methods, and it serves a great purpose in creating user-centric products. Usability testing is a qualitative UX research method that seeks to understand users' experience when they interact with a product.

As a user experience researcher, you are responsible for testing the ease of use of a product with users while observing their interactions with the product. This is an important aspect of what a UX researcher does in the overall UX design process. We can argue that a UX designer can also carry out usability tests. Still, beyond the technical skills of designing, it takes someone that can communicate with people and interpret reactions to know if users have a good experience with a product or not.

Similar research activity to usability testing is user testing. The only difference is that user testing is done to understand how users interact with all the features in a product and test its functionality. Still, usability testing is done specifically for testing ease of use.

4. Aligning business goals with user research goals

It is your responsibility as a UX researcher to align the client's business goals to the purpose of the user research. How do you do this? Create research questions for each business goal.

For example, if one of your goals is "to help artisans access payments solution easily". You can create a research question that reads like this "How do you receive payments for your service currently?" Which difficulties do you experience during payment for your services? The questions will make it easy for you to have your research geared toward business goals.

Six tips on how to understand UX research

The best way to get a full understanding of what a UX researcher actually does is to become a UX researcher yourself.

The steps below are tips on how to understand UX research

1. Read materials on UX research

Start with surfing the net for UX research. You don't need to put a structure around it at first, so it doesn't become overwhelming and lowers your drive. You can start by reading those materials in your leisure time.

Subscribe to newsletters on UX research, read blog posts on the Brave Achievers blog, read articles on medium, and feed posts on LinkedIn. Just make sure you are reading something about UX research daily.

2. Learn relevant skills

You cannot understand the details of UX research if you don't have the skills. It's like trying to understand how a pilot flies an airplane. You can read about it, and recognize the keys to punch, but if you don't have the practical skills, you cannot understand fully how to fly an airplane.

The core UX research skills include communication, collaboration, analytical thinking, persuasion, data analysis, and creative writing. These are general skills, but their specificity is in how to use them to uncover user behaviors.

3. Freelance for UX designers

As a starter in the field, you need practical experience to understand what UX researchers actually do. You can gain experience in what UX researchers do by offering freelance services for UX designers for free. Join UX design communities, connect with UX professionals, and offer to conduct UX research for their projects for free.

This would help you put your skills to the test, and you can have first-hand experience with the role of a UX researcher.

4. Build your portfolio

Your freelance services will give you projects that you can add to your portfolio. Portfolio building in itself helps you become more acquainted with the processes you engaged in during your UX research.

You’d have to detail how you connect with respondents, and how you were able to interpret pain points to designers and help the team achieve the goal of a user-centered design. Writing these processes down helps you know more about your role as a UX researcher.

The best way to learn is to stand on the shoulders of giants. Make connections with professionals in the field. This is a fast route to understanding what UX researchers actually do. You stand a chance to learn how best to conduct research, how to communicate with a target user group, and how to have user-centered design research.

Which role does a UX researcher actually play in the tech industry?

1. They are the link between the tech industry and users

Link between tech industry and users

UX researchers are the link between the tech industry and those who use their products Tech workers are mostly buried in their work, trying to develop a solution or improve a product. UX researchers do the dirty work of going out into the streets to communicate with the real users of these products, get insights from them and communicate back to tech workers.

Without UX researchers, we are sure to have products that don’t resonate with the needs of the common man on the street. So, UX researchers actually make the tech industry relevant. Since the relevance of the tech industry is in creating solutions for people.

2. UX research births new products and technologies

UX research births new technologies

The insights UX researchers gain from users help propel the tech industry to birth products that might not be in existence before.

For example, research can reveal that certain demographics have difficulty with a product. Maybe, it is difficult for people with special needs to use a certain product, this would help designers look for ways to make the product accessible for those people, and a new product is created!

This is also the reason for new technologies. The feedback from research helps designers and developers look for better ways to present solutions, and this gives room for creativity and innovation for new technologies.

Final thoughts

So, what do UX researchers actually do? In summary, they conduct research on prospective users and uncover insights that will help designers create a user-centered design.

You can also learn the fundamentals of UX research and become a UX researcher. Sign up here and gain access to this fully funded Bootcamp training.

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