The design process for any great product starts with seeking to provide solutions to a specific problem for the target users. Usually, the scope of this problem, and how it affects your prospective users, determine the techniques and resources that will be deployed to create solutions. Thus, understanding target users is a significant fulcrum to creating design solutions.
The need for this understanding is where the UX (user experience) researcher comes in. The role of the UX researcher is the central element of the UX design process. The UX researcher provides insights into the user's pain points and behaviors, which serves as a guide for UX designers.
Through product development, the UX researcher is responsible for uncovering user needs, goals, aspirations, and behaviors. The UX researcher starts by conducting user research to understand how to meet the user's needs. This is followed by subsequent research, to understand users' responses and reactions to the product through user and usability testing.
The UX researcher is also responsible for collecting user feedback to improve the product. The role of the UX researcher does not stop until the product starts recording great user reviews.
Thus, user experience research spans the product development phase, and the UX researcher starts the project and ends it.
Read Designing the user experience of a product.
Skills needed in UX research
UX research skills are primarily soft skills. The technical part of UX research is knowing how to use the research tools and analyze research data. Some soft skills you need as a UX researcher are: empathy, collaboration, communication, analytical thinking, proactiveness, creativity, innovation, etc.
Read Employability Skills: Skills for Getting a Job
What does a UX researcher do?
The goal of the UX researcher is to gain insights that will guide designers in their creative process. This goal is achieved by conducting UX research with different research methods like user interviews, surveys, and other types of UX research methodologies.
Roles and Responsibilities of a UX researcher
A job listing by Apple Inc. described the role of a UX researcher as someone that creates a research strategy and can coordinate and execute all the steps involved in user research, deploying different user research methods. This description is true and we can even go further to buttress what it means to be a UX researcher.
Responsibilities of a UX researcher
1. Crafting Research Plan and Strategy
Your primary task as a UX researcher is to create a well-crafted research plan that will serve as a guide for the UX research process. The plan has to consider the location of your target audience, the user research tools that will be used for the research, and the UX research methods you intend to use.
2. Design quantitative and qualitative research studies
Quantitative research deals with numerical data and as such, it deals mostly with issues like, "How many users are affected?", How many young guys experience this or that, etc.
Qualitative research, on the other hand, seeks to understand how a problem affects the user. It goes beyond the basic questions to understand the thought processes of the user.
Your expertise as a UX researcher would be seen in how you craft research with a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods because you cannot depend on just one kind of method to get the job done.
As you seek to know the capacity of those affected by a particular problem, you should also seek to know the reason and effects of the problem to guide you in your communication with other team members.
3. Data analysis
The raw data from research will not serve its purpose until it is analyzed and turned into understandable and actionable insights for the product team. This implies that UX researchers should have a basic understanding of data analysis for the presentation of data when communicating with team members.
4. Research presentation
UX research is not complete until the results from the research are accessed by stakeholders and it is verified as fit for use. UX researchers serve as the bridge between stakeholders and users. Thus, it is the responsibility of the UX researcher to present the results from the research to stakeholders, explaining the figures and how their needs align with company goals and objectives.
5. Creating user personas
Since UX researchers are in a position to understand the target user better, they have the primary responsibility to create a persona that describes the user. The persona serves as the guide for designers and other stakeholders to keep their focus. You can also collaborate with UX writers to write the user persona.
Types of UX research
There are two major types of UX research, and they are qualitative research and quantitative research.
Qualitative research deals with getting facts about users' insights and perceptions of a product or an inquiry to understand their thought processes about a problem while quantitative research deals with getting figures such as the number of people that do not understand the purpose of a button or the category of those that find a website unresponsive.
UX research methods
There are various UX research methods and we will discuss a few of them here. These research methods all have the purpose they serve in the UX research process, so the UX research method you choose should be dependent on the reason for your project and the strategy you have mapped out to achieve it.
You can start with basic user research at the early stage, before graduating to user testing, where you seek to know what users think about the proposed product. Then finally, you can conduct usability testing to test the product's ease of use with the target users.
Also, effective user research at the early stage improves the creativity of the UX designer to design user-centric solutions.
1. User interviews
User interview is a type of user research that collects qualitative data from prospective users. Thus, the research is usually a one-on-one interaction to understand user behaviors and responses toward a need or user preferences about a product.
A survey in UX research usually takes the form of a questionnaire sent to specific groups to gain insights into their needs and preferences. Surveys are generally a quick and budget-friendly way of getting data from users.
3. Focus groups
Focus groups are small groups of prospective users of a product in a specific location that come together to discuss a subject of interest about the product. Focus groups uncover deep insights that might not be obtainable in a survey.
4. Usability testing
Usability tests help designers understand user interaction with the product. These tests are designed to test how easily users can complete tasks with the proposed development. The test can be conducted with two or more prototypes of the product.
5. A/B testing
A/B testing is a user testing method that checks how users respond differently to variations of the same feature in a product.
This method allows you to send variations of the same website architecture, a product feature, or even variations of mail to different user groups. The idea is to get their responses to determine the most effective one. It is effective for gaining valuable insights from various user groups' preferences.
How to conduct effective user research
1. Set research goals
Your research goals guide what you want to achieve with the research. A research goal details the indices for the success of the research, which make your research process actionable.
2. Align research goals with the company's goals and objectives
You also want to ensure that your research goals align with the company's goals and objectives. This creates a relationship between your user's needs and how the company intends to meet those needs. It also helps user researchers know which areas to ask for users' opinions.
3. Define your audience
The research methods you have chosen will determine your audience. Engaging with an audience that doesn't fit into your research method can ruin the entire project because you will be asking the wrong audience the right questions and will likely get answers that are not needed.
4. Design a research guide
Your research guide differs from the research plan, strategy, or goals. The research guide contains questions you will ask, how you intend to ask the questions systematically, the number of respondents you plan to engage per day, the number of hours you allocate for the research, and other eventualities that might happen during the research.
5. Conduct research
You have all you need, now go and conduct some research. Often, over-analysis crumbles research. Do not get stuck in the planning stage. Projects are time bound, and starting your research early enough helps you have time to make improvements.
6. Collect user feedback
A significant part of UX research is users’ feedback. Feedback is not limited to the figures you get through surveys or interviews. Feedback refers to your user's complaints, suggestions, and observations. Feedback helps UX designers improve the human-computer interaction of your product.
How to become a UX researcher without experience
Anyone can become a UX researcher, provided you have an interest and are ready to learn. UX research skills are primarily soft skills transferable from other professions, making it easy for you to transition into a UX research career.
You can learn the process of UX research either by learning from UX channels and learning communities online or by attending a Bootcamp like the GoCreate Bootcamp.
You can also join online UX communities to improve your knowledge and gain insights into career tips that will help as you start your journey in UX research.
Read The Pros and Cons of Attending a UX Design Bootcamp
UX researcher salary
The average salary for a UX researcher is between $84000 and $140000. It depends on factors like the location, your expertise, your job description, and the financial strength of the company.
A product's success mainly depends on how product teams understand their target users, which comes from in-depth research.
Thus, the role of the UX researcher is one of the most critical roles in product development. If you ignore the role of the UX researcher, you are missing an essential part of your product, which is understanding your users.
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