Which type of research should I be running?

When you are first getting started running user research for your product or project, there are a number of types of research that you could run. The way to determine what type of research you should be doing is to define your learning objectives.


To define your learning objectives, first determine what the focus of your research will be (people’s experiences, a feature, a flow, etc.) Then sit down with your team to collect all of the questions and assumptions they have about this topic, identify the major themes that emerge, and write these down as your learning objectives.


If your learning objectives are focused on understanding people’s motivations, needs and pain points then you should be running Ethnographic Research. These participant qualities are most often revealed through open ended discussions around their activities and experiences.

If you want to learn what works and doesn’t work with solution design concept, then you should run Prototype Testing. Seeing a participant interact with your product concept will identify where you need to evolve and improve it before investing time into design and code.
If you want to learn how quickly and effectively a participant can complete tasks with your product, then you should run Usability Testing. Watch your participant’s use your product to see where they are successful and where they struggle in order to improve the user experience.

If you want to understand what your competitors are doing well and where they are failing, then you should run Competitive Research. This will allow you to identify opportunities to provide better experiences for your users, based on where your competitors’ products are failing.


Once you get into a routine of running user research, you will have a better grasp on what types of research work best for your team and for the types of learning objectives you have.


Get your team started running user research — sign up for Field Guide