What is UX Research? Key Definitions and Methodologies

Angela Huang
Published in
9 min readApr 10, 2023


User experience research (UX research) is essential to designing and developing successful products. By understanding the user’s point of view, UX researchers can optimize product experiences to make them more usable, practical, and enjoyable. The goal of UX research is to inform design decisions that are based on data-driven insights rather than assumptions or subjective opinions.

This article will explore the key definitions and methodologies of UX research that all stakeholders should be aware of when creating successful product experiences. We’ll discuss the process of UX research, including the different types of data that can be collected and the various methods used to gather it. By understanding these critical components of UX research, you’ll be well-positioned to create great user experiences.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Definition of UX Research

User experience research is a systematic process of understanding users’ behavior, motivations, and needs. It involves collecting qualitative and quantitative data from interviews, surveys, observations, and other methods to inform design decisions that improve user experiences. UX research also helps identify potential areas of improvement and opportunities for innovation.

Process of UX Research

#1 Planning UX Research

Planning UX research involves first identifying the research objectives you want to achieve to understand user needs and behaviors. This typically consists of qualitative and quantitative research methods to help you gain insights into user motivations, preferences, and behaviors. After this initial step, it’s essential to outline the appropriate data collection techniques you plan to use and the timeline for completing your research.

#2 Collecting Data

Collecting data is the next step in the process, which entails gathering data from your users through surveys, interviews, focus groups, and observation. Depending on the project context, this can involve conducting either remote or onsite research. It’s important to note that data collection should be conducted ethically, keeping user privacy top-of-mind.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

#3 Analyzing and Interpreting Results

This step involves organizing user data into actionable insights. This entails looking for patterns or correlations in the user data that can be further explored. It’s essential to ensure the interpretation of results is objective, meaning it should not be influenced by the researcher’s personal biases.

#4 Presenting Findings

The next step involves visualizing user data to effectively communicate results to stakeholders. This is typically done through slideshows, spreadsheets, or other mediums easily digestible by non-technical team members. The presentation can include qualitative and quantitative findings to give a holistic picture of user research insights.

#5 Incorporating Changes Based on User Insights

The final step involves taking all of the user insights gathered and making changes to the product or service that align with user needs. This can include tweaking existing features, introducing new ones, or removing certain elements altogether, depending on user feedback.

Types of Data Collected in UX Research and User Research Methods Used to Gather Data

By Rosenfeld Media on Flickr

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative data is used to collect information on user attitudes, behaviors, and preferences. This type of research focuses on managing in-depth insights from a small sample size. Methods such as interviews, focus groups, card sorting exercises, diaries, or photo-elicitation are some of the most common qualitative UX research methods used to study user behavior.

User Interviews

User interviews are a vital component of qualitative UX research and involve an interviewer engaging with individuals in an open-ended discussion about their experiences with a product or service. A user interview is designed to uncover how people think, feel, and respond to the product and their motivations. This method aims to identify pain points and possible areas of improvement in the user experience. By working one-on-one with users, interviewers can gain deeper insights into their attitudes, needs, motivations, and behaviors.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are another proper qualitative UX research method. This involves a group of participants discussing their attitudes and experiences with a product or service in a facilitated setting. The purpose of focus groups is to gain insight into how people think, feel, and respond to the product and uncover issues that were not previously visible.

Сard Sorting Exercises

Card sorting exercises are an effective way to understand how users think about and categorize the content on a website or product. This type of research helps UX researchers gain insight into users’ mental models and expectations for how the product should be structured. During a card sorting exercise, participants are asked to group pieces of information (represented by cards) into categories that make sense. This type of research allows researchers to uncover how users perceive the product’s organization and structure, thus informing design decisions.

Diary studies

A diary study involves participants recording their experiences with a product or service over some time (this could be days, weeks, or even months). This type of UX research aims to uncover users’ long-term behaviors and attitudes. By tracking participants’ responses over an extended time, researchers can gain valuable insights into how users interact with the product and how it fits into their daily lives.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

Photo Elicitation

Photo elicitation is a unique qualitative UX research method that combines photography with interviews to gain insight into user behavior. This method involves participants photographing their surroundings and then discussing the photos with an interviewer. This research type is helpful in understanding how people use the product in real-world contexts. Photo elicitation can provide valuable insights into user behavior that would not be visible through other research methods.

Quantitative UX Research Methods

Quantitative data measures user activity, primarily through surveys and analytics. This type of research focuses on collecting numerical data from a larger sample size. Typical quantitative UX research methods include A/B testing, usability testing, task analysis, and user flow mapping. These methods help UX designers measure user interactions and track usage patterns, allowing UX researches to make informed decisions based on objective data.

A/B testing

A/B testing (also known as split testing) compares two versions of a web page or product design to see which one performs better with users. The primary goal is determining which design features are most effective for usability and engagement. A/B testing involves creating two different versions (A and B) of the same user interface and then showing each version to a random group of users. The version which receives the most conversions or highest engagement will then be implemented as the final iteration. Iterative design is used to refine the design, one step at a time.

By Alexander Baxevanis on Flickr

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves observing how users interact with a product or service to identify improvement areas. This type of research is used to measure how easy or difficult it is for users to complete specific tasks and evaluate the usability of a product. Usability testing may include user interviews, surveys, observation sessions, and task analysis. The results from these tests can then be used to inform design decisions, improve the user experience and optimize product performance.

Task Analysis

Task analysis is a crucial UX research method to understand how users interact with an interface. It involves breaking down complex tasks into smaller steps to identify improvement areas and optimize the user experience. With task analysis, we can map out the steps users take from start to finish and uncover any issues preventing them from completing their tasks successfully.

User Flow Mapping

User flow mapping is a technique used to map out how users move throughout a product or service and identify areas of improvement. This method helps track user behavior, understand how people complete tasks from start to finish, and uncover any issues preventing them from achieving their goals. User flow mapping involves studying the interactions between users and the interface, such as where people click, pause, or abandon their journey. The results from user flow mapping can be used to modify existing navigation paths and create better user experiences.

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash

Observational Research

Observational research involves observing users in their natural environment without interfering. This type of research is used to uncover any pain points that may not be surfaced through traditional research methods. Observational research can include observing users in a retail store, monitoring user behavior on an app or website, or interviewing customers about their experiences with a product or service. It is an effective way to gain insight into how people interact with a product in their everyday lives and uncover any areas of improvement.

Photo by Adam Wilson on Unsplash

Attitudinal and Behavioral Approaches

Attitudinal and behavioral approaches combine qualitative and quantitative methods to provide a broader view of user behavior. Attitudinal approaches focus on understanding a user’s opinion or attitude towards a product or service, while behavioral approaches look to know how the user interacts with the product. Standard attitudinal methods include surveys, interviews, and focus groups, while typical behavioral techniques include usability testing, task analysis, and user flow mapping. These methods measure user behavior and track usage patterns to make informed decisions.

Benefits of Using UX Research

  • UX research helps identify user preferences, needs, and behavior to create products tailored to their requirements.
  • Investing in design research can save time and money as you avoid making costly changes further down the line when it is too late.
  • UX research can help you develop more user-friendly products, which leads to higher customer satisfaction.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
  • By using various user experience research methods, such as interviews, surveys, and usability testing, it is possible to gain an in-depth understanding of the user journey and uncover potential issues. This helps to ensure that the end product is successful and efficient.
  • UX research can also help you identify users’ pain points, providing valuable information on improving user experience.
  • Finally, investing in UX research will help your organization remain competitive by staying ahead of industry trends and developing innovative products.
By Jennifer Cham on Flickr


User research is an essential part of product development that helps inform design decisions. Through thoughtful and comprehensive user experience research, teams can better understand the needs, wants, motivations, and behaviors of their target users. UX research methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, and usability testing allow teams to gain valuable insights into how users interact with a product and how they feel about specific features. These insights can then inform design decisions throughout the development process, ultimately leading to a better user experience when the product is released. By leveraging UX research, teams can create products that will meet the needs of their users and make them happy in the long run.

Thanks for reading!