In this post, I’m going to show you how to conduct UX research step by step.
- What is UX research?
- The process of UX research (Persona, Customer Journey, User Interview, Data Analytics, Competitor Analytics, AB test, User Validation)
- Case study
I’ve been working for UX in an international company from the US and learned a lot of tactics from world-wide UX specialists.
If you want to work for a big company or client, I’m sure that you’ll love this guide.
What is UX Research (User Research)?
User research focuses on understanding user behaviors, needs, and motivations through observation techniques, task analysis, and other feedback methodologies. Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_research
In short, it’s a research to know what a customer needs and wants.
The best tip to keep your business long is to keep listening to your customer’s voice.
If you think about Amazon, Macdonald, and Starbucks, they might have a lot of issues but I can see that they are good at predicting the customer’s needs and wants.
A lot of global companies have customer-obsessed culture and UX research is a blueprint for the process.
Don’t listen to a random idea from someone in your team
If you work for a company, there might be some people who give you their random suggestions without any research or proof.
It’s ok to take it into consideration but you don’t have to follow their ideas unless they are your client or boss.
When I offer a suggestion, I often ask myself like “Isn’t it just your opinion?”.
Especially when it comes to website improvement and If you work for a big company, it would be good to go with a robust approach with UX Research.
What is the definition of your best website?
When I was a web developer, I used to have a desire like “I want to make the best website”.
But in reality, I often felt disappointed because my clients or bosses gave me some bad instructions and the website’s quality went worse.
I was judging the website from my point of view but I should have judged it by the customer’s or client’s point of view.
I guess a lot of designers and developers have the same experience but it wouldn’t have happened if there was a UX research in the process.
The process of UX Research
- Create personas and customer journey
- Conduct user interview
- Analyze from data
- Analyze from competitors
- Create UX improvement draft
- Create Prototype
- Test by user validation or A/B test
- Monitor the result
I’ll explain the each step with the case study;
I got feedback from our call center saying “a lot of people cannot find the sign-in link because it’s in a hamburger menu”.
STEP 1: Create personas and customer journey
The first step is to define the persona(target users) and the customer journey.
Without this process, you might get a lot of random ideas from your team because the strategy and design depend on the target users.
For example, the design when you target women in their 20s should be a lot different from the one when you target men in their 50s.
The point is that the ideas and the suggestions would be more on point with the persona and customer journey.
The persona for this website is the members in their 20’s and 30’s.
The journey is as follows;
- Visit the homepage
- Go to the dashboard
STEP 2: Conduct user interview
A lot of small companies skip this part but this is the most important part.
It’s important to talk to the right people who are close to the persona, and ideally collect more than 5 people at least to get to the conclusion.
The common mistake is to talk to random people when you are on B to B business.
Remember the purpose of UX research is to optimize for the persona.
I conducted the user interview with 10 users to ask about the issue “The sign-in link is hard to find”.
- Do you have an experience that you felt hard to find the sign-in link from the homepage?
- If so, what did you do after?? (This follow up question was to check if the user left the homepage or not)
As a result, 6 out of 8 people said yes to the first question.
6 out of 6 people managed to sign-in after a while.
STEP3: Data analytics
Use Google Analytics or any heatmap tools to identify the problems.
If you find the right metrics to prove the problem, it can be the KPI.
I used the recording functionality from Hotjar(heatmap tool) and found that a lot of users are struggling to find the sign-in link.
STEP 4: Competitor analytics
Check on your competitor’s websites to see their solutions.
There are websites that are good-looking and docusing on their branding and websites which are focusing on usability.
I usually refer to the ones with good usability.
For an E-commerce website, Amazon would be a good benchmark for many sites.
Checked on 10 websites and looks like E-commerce websites like Amazon, Rakuten shows the sign-in link on above the fold.
Meanwhile, the websites from fashion brands tend to have a sign-in link in the hamburger menu.
STEP 5: Create the UX research finding report
Create a report after analyzing the result from Step 1~4 and suggest an idea to improve the UX.
This time I would suggest the 2 ideas as below;
- Idea 1: Take out the sign-in link from the hamburger menu and place it somewhere above the fold.
- Merit: This would be the easiest way for users to find the sign-in link
- Demerit: It could change the simple design by adding a link in the header.
- Idea 2: Place the text “Menu” under the hamburger icon to make users notice that it’s a menu icon.
- Merit: It minimizes the design change and development work. It could also increase the click-through rate to open the hamburger menu.
- Demerit: There might still be some people who don’t notice that the sign-in link is in the hamburger menu
If you don’t want to take too much time, just one suggestion would be enough.
In fact, startup companies from the USA tend to prefer this style.
You could get a good impression by submitting the document and being confident saying “This works the best”.
For Japanese companies or any international big companies, it might be good to suggest 2 ideas and go to the further process.
STEP 6 – A : Create the prototype and conduct user validation
This process is to check if the suggestion would really work or not.
Create the prototype by the design tools such as Adobe XD, Prott, and InVision so that you can feel the actual design and the user flow.
Case Study :
Based on the user feedback, they want to get to the sign-in page with 1 click from the homepage, which led us to choose suggestion 1.
STEP 6 – B : Test the idea by A/B testing
Google optimizes let you test both of your suggestions and see the results on Google Analytics for free.
This would be the best way to see the result although it could affect the operation.
STEP 7 : Implement the change on live site
Sure it’s a lot of work to implement the small change, but I have to go through at work.
This is the most robust approach to improve the website.
This UX research process can be used for any occasion.
For example, if you are looking for a girlfriend, the process would be 1. Create a Persona and journey 2. Interview with 5 people …. something like that.
It would definitely increase the chance to achieve your goal.
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