UX Research

UX Research, also called user experience research, is used to get information about target users, their needs and requirements. Market researchers are constantly searching for new opportunities to get to know their customers. Due to the fact there are a huge amount of different and complicated methods, research design can be difficult.
Susanne Friese
Product specialist, trainer and author of the book "Qualitative Data Analysis with ATLAS.ti"
  1. UX Research – how to get insights from your user group
  2. How you start your own UX research
  3. The methodologies used in UX research
  4. Observation – without interacting with your user group
  5. Understanding – take a closer look
  6. Analysis – get insights from your data
  7. Types of tools to get information
  8. Interviews
  9. Surveys and Questionnaires
  10. Card sorts
  11. Usability tests
  12. A/B test

UX Research – how to get insights from your user group

Here comes UX research into play, which is helping to define a questionnaire. It is melting different techniques from academics and scientists in order to look at the design process from the end user's point of view. This enables you to analyze your product or your service and find out if your customers understand your intention. To improve your product or your service, you should always get feedback from your target audience. You should also be aware of the fact there are different types of users, causing sometimes different user interactions.

It helps you to disprove or to verify your thesis and assumptions. Based on UX research, you are also able to identify similarities and differences in your target group.

Figure 1: User group at an interview

How you start your own UX research

Before starting your own online survey, it is useful to take a closer look at its design process. UX research can be divided on the one hand into the following two parts:

Gathering data and synthesizing data in order to improve usability. These can be qualitative or quantitative data.

In a first step, your design research focuses on the several stakeholders and their needs and goals. By doing field studies instead of using secondary data, you ensure your data will meet your defined questions.

User interviews tend to give some deep-sight information, but are hard to compare to each other. Therefore, user design research should contain closed-ended and open-ended questions. Moreover, you observe prospects or current users and collect (online) surveys.

In a second step, you can use secondary data to draw a comparison between your collected data and the average of a market. Now you are able to adjust your design process by using A/B tests, ask your users about how they dealt with the interview process and so on.

You can also differentiate between qualitative and quantitative research. These data are easy to compare. Quantitative research examines how many participants gave a specific answer. Qualitative research in turn asks for the reasons for a particular decision but is quite difficult to analyze and to compare.

Therefore, UX research plays a significant role in marketing research and consumer research. A well-done analysis of several questionnaires makes it easier to create a base for a particular decision. In the long run, UX design helps to find a position on the market. This also outlines the importance of design decisions of your UX research methods.

In the fields of online marketing and e-commerce, conducting user research, such as A/B tests and usability testing, is even more important because it’s the only way to get in contact with your focus group and develop a user-centered-design.

The methodologies used in UX research

There are various types of research, which we would like to introduce to you.

Figure 2: Usability tests

Observation – without interacting with your user group

Firstly, you take a closer look at your focus group. For example, you have to recognize if your interview partner is nervous. We recommend taking notes on what you are seeing, even if it seems to be unimportant.

Eventually, it might become more relevant. Moreover, you ensure that you are not prejudiced by your memories or stereotypes you might identify.

Understanding – take a closer look

Maybe you think understanding is quite simple, but in fact it is quite complicated. In the context of research design, understanding is related to mental models. A mental model describes the image that somebody has in mind when they are talking or thinking about a specific topic or situation. Design researchers are trying to understand this model.

But sometimes it is quite difficult to recognize these images because your interview partner might not be able to describe their image properly or in detail. Sharing this information with your design team will help you customize the design.

Analysis – get insights from your data

To get insights, you need to analyze your collected data and to identify patterns in the research. Based on the analysis, you are able to draw conclusions and give recommendations. There are several types of analysis that try to create personas or scenarios. Others are describing mental models, or analyzing charts and graphs or user behaviors.

Please notice, your analysis is only useful to you, if you are sharing it to your design team. Thus, you are able to redesign your product or your service, based on the information of your customers.

Types of tools to get information

In order to collect information, you can choose from several research methods, for example

  • interviews
  • online surveys and questionnaires
  • usability tests
  • A/B tests


Interviews are a well-established research method. Researchers and participants are communicating to each other. There are three different types of interviews which are proposing different goals:

  • directed interviews
  • non-directed interviews
  • ethnographic interviews

Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires are useful to collect a huge amount of information in no time at all. On the one hand, they make an excellent research method for analyzing large and diverse user groups. In addition, you can deal with survey respondents who wish to remain anonymous. On the other hand you cannot interact with your group of interest. This helps to get profound information on a specific topic.

Card sorts

Card sorts can be used in a usability test or an interview. Users are asked to categorize specific terms. This kind of user testing informs about preferences and hierarchies of a user. Initially, your topic set should include 40 to 80 items, which your subjects should rank in order of importance to them. The subjects should name the points that are most important to them first in their order. This will help you identify the most important features of a product or service. You may find that something you like is not relevant to your target audience. Then you can leave it out and use your money to come up with something more useful.

In a second step, users should group items which belong together into piles. It does not matter if a pile is bigger than another. If your test person is unsure about a card, they can leave them out. Unknown items only show that your service or product still needs some explanation. Thirdly, users should name these groups and explain why they choose a specific name. Are there items, which might belong to several groups? And why? Furthermore, you might want to know more about unsorted items. After repeating this process with 15 to 20 users, you can analyze and compare these data.

Usability tests

Usability tests are essential for your design team because they can get honest feedback in this kind of user testing. You start to observe users behavior by using your live version of a site or an app or a prototype, which has been seeded only to a small group of users.

Usability testing is a good method to understand how customers might use your product or your service and what might be still too difficult. Based on this feedback, you can start to improve your product or service. Or you might be ready to launch it.

A special form of usability testing is remote UX research. By using this form, you understand how your customers use your product or service in their workday. Screen Sharing enables nearly every desktop, smartphone or tablet device to turn into a virtual test laboratory.

At this stage, you should always keep in mind that customer needs and markets are changing continuously. So do not test your product for ages without launching it. There might never be an absolute perfect solution for your problem. You might miss some important trends or there may come competitors into play, which substitute your services. Moreover, these long usability testings are expensive.

A/B test

A/B tests are used to compare user groups and their behavior in several situations. Normally, you choose an A/B test in order to compare several designs. By using A/B tests, you get profound customer insights without years of usability testing of a product or service that has not been launched yet. Please note that A/B-testing is not a substitute for a usability test. Instead, you should do both.