Dear reader, you are not your user.

You know how sometimes we think that we know a person well enough that we begin to make decisions for that person? The truth is that you really cannot do that if you have not done in-depth research on this person either by having conversations with him/her often, spending time with the person etc.

This is the same in UX design, or rather Product design. In creating a product for a user, you must first understand that you are not that user. Sure, you may have similar pain points but you still need to place priority on carrying out proper research on the targeted user’s needs, pain points, expectations and behavioural patterns. Thus, user research is vital in making decisions at every stage of product development and without it, a product may end up being useless to the intended users.

A common misconception is that user research ends when a product has been successfully launched, which is why many products lose their relevance in the long run. It is essential to find out what people think and feel about a product, evaluate feedbacks especially the negative ones and see how you can implement the changes or features your user wants to see. Also, feedbacks on accessibility must be taken seriously to ensure that your design is not just being inclusive but equity-focused.

There are various categories of user research; some of which include qualitative and quantitative research, attitudinal and behavioural research, primary and secondary research and foundational and evaluative research.

Qualitative and quantitative research: Qualitative research deals with understanding the user through the process of observation or carrying out interviews with the user in question. In this type of research, you seek to understand the user from his or her perspective without using data. It allows you to answer “why” and “how” questions. Quantitative research is quite the opposite, in the sense that it deals with understanding the user by gathering and measuring data numerically. This type of research involves the use of numerical data and answers “what” and “how many” questions.

Attitudinal and behavioural research: Many a time, people say one thing and do quite the opposite. This is the basis of this category of research. Attitudinal research majorly deals with asking questions and getting opinions from people on how they feel, what they feel, what they like etc. Behavioural research, on the other hand, is observing and studying what they actually do.

Primary and secondary research: Primary research is carrying out first-hand research to understand the user, a good example will be conducting interviews with people. Secondary research, however, uses existing research that has been done and is relevant to understand your user. Most of the time, secondary research is carried out first because it is easier and helps to point the researcher in the right direction in carrying out primary research.

Foundational and evaluative research: Foundational research, also referred to as generative or discovery research, is usually carried out in the beginning of the product process when you have no idea of the problem you are trying to solve for the user. The idea behind this research is to introduce innovative and relevant solutions to a user. Evaluative research deals with assessing existing solutions to ensure that they solve the needs of people and are useful, usable, enjoyable and relevant to the users.

In carrying out these various categories of user research, different methods may be employed to carry out the research. Some of these methods include surveys, interviews, diary studies, focus groups, heuristic evaluations, first click testing, A/B testing, card sorting, treejack testing, usability testing. Some methods are peculiar to the chosen category of user research so it is important to always have this in mind.

Effectively carrying out user research lays a solid foundation for designers to create relevant and useful products for targeted users. Thus, it is necessary that companies invest greatly in user research.



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