12 UX Research Techniques (Quantitative and Qualitative)

In my opinion, every UX designer should be intimately familiar with the art and science of UX research. Since “delighting” the end-user is absolutely one of the most important aspects of a good UX design, it’s critical to understand the techniques and methods for conducting in-depth assessment of your ideas before committing to them.

The following illustration summaries the various aspects of a UX Research journey focused on both — the quantitative and qualitative side.

Figure 1 — Qualitative and Quantitative aspects of UX Research

Now that we have established some of these key components, let’s talk about the steps for conducting UX research. It’s really important to have a structured framework because the UX research process can get daunting, over-bearing and in-conclusive very quickly.

So here are the five key questions that you have to consider as you define your UX research plan:

  1. Objectives. What are the key knowledge gaps that we need to consider?
  2. Hypotheses. What do we think we understand about our users?
  3. Methods. Based on time and manpower, what methods should we select
  4. Conduct. Gather data through the selected methods.
  5. Synthesize. Fill in the knowledge gaps, prove or disprove our hypotheses, and discover opportunities for our design efforts.

Whether you are focused on Quantitative or Qualitative aspect of UX research, one important concept that I would like to introduce is that of a persona generation.

What is a Persona?

It is essentially a representation of a group of users who exhibit very similar patterns in terms of their behavior in using a particular application or product regardless of age, gender, location, education or profession. These behaviors are typically specific to a particular technology/product, decisions, preferences, usage style etc.

Why is Persona generation important?

Persona generation allows an organization to reasonably understand the types of users and customers who are most frequently engaging with their products or services. I use the term “engaging”, because they may not necessarily be buying anything at this point. They could simply be strangers or visitors browsing your content as they start to think about getting close to making a decision. The concept of Persona generation allows an organization to develop influencing design and business techniques to “delight” the user and transform them into “loyal” customers.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve attempted to summarize the top 20 qualitative and quantitative methods for doing a 360 UX research for your app or product.

UX Research Methods

Qualitative Methods

  1. Interviews — typically covers three types of interviews:
    a) directed interviews where the researcher asks specific questions to the users and attempts to compare responses with other users
    b) non-directed interviews where the researcher attempts to have more of a general discussion with the user(s)
    c) ethnographic interviews where the researcher observes the user(s) in their own environment to understand how they approach certain aspects, accomplish certain tasks.
  2. Surveys and Questionnaires — are a quick way to collect information from a large number of users but their obvious limitation is lack of any interaction between the researcher and the users.
  3. Usability Tests—involves asking user(s) to use the app/product to accomplish certain goals. There are three variations of such tests:
    a) moderated testing — where the users are brought into the lab and given specific tasks or tests to perform.
    b) unmoderated testing — where the users complete the test on their own time typically remotely.
    c)guerrilla testing — a more casual form of testing where random users at a social or community location are asked to use the app/product and provide informal feedback.
  4. Card Sorts — the primary goal of a card sort test is to understand how users perceive relationships and hierarchy between various content, categories and other information. This is typically used to generate appropriate information architecture or site maps.
  5. Tree Tests — similar to card sort, the primary goal is to test whether the product/app has the appropriate level of information heirarchy is being designed within the product.
  6. A/B Tests — focuses on providing the user with two or more options and documenting the user’s preferences amongst the options. There are also advanced or focused A/B tests tests on specific aspect of the product such as the Design Elements, Information Heirarchy, Navigation and more.
  7. Persona Development — As described above, it is essentially a representation of a group of a user who exhibit a very similar pattern in terms of behavior of using the application regardless of age, gender, location, education and profession.

Quantitative Measures

  1. Using statistics on small sample size — small samples don’t always work in every situation but for quick initial assessments, it’s an effective way of identifying some large differences in design, flow or strategy.
  2. Power — is the ability or the confidence level to detect differences between various studies. The more power, chances are that you will find the small to large differences between various studies.
  3. The p-value — or more clearly probability value is a way to measure the possibility that the differences between different products or designs that were observed by the test users was due to a chance or coincidence. Lower the percentage means that the observed difference is not due to chance and so it’s statistically significant.
  4. Sample Size — there are multiple techniques to calculate a sample size. It all depends on the degree of differences and changes you are trying to capture, precision of these changes as well as acceptable margin of error.
  5. Confidence Intervals and Confidence Levels are typically used for sample size calculations. Based on the time, budget and resources, most teams go with a 90-95% confidence interval with a 5–10% margin of error.

UX research is definitely a complicated science as much as it’s an art. It’s difficult to summarize all aspects of this process in one article, but hopefully this will get you going in the right direction.