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Product manager’s guide to UX research

This article is called product manager’s guide to UX research because we make the center of our attention the very first thing PMs focus on when taking on a new product - user needs and wishes.

29 July, 2022
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UX research is vital to any UI and UX design company. If you're working with one of these companies, you might be interested in understanding how they conduct UX research to make your product a success. Is it one method they choose or a combination of them? And how to pick a preferred technique?

This article is called product manager’s guide to UX research because we make the center of our attention the very first thing PMs focus on when taking on a new product - user needs and wishes. Whether you’re a PM yourself or want to utilize their methods of thinking, this guide is for you.

Now, let’s hop on the user experience train and learn how to discover what users want from your product in a sophisticated and effective way.

Want your product to attract, engage, and keep customers?

Merge is here to help.

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What is UX research?

User experience (UX) research is the study of how people interact with products or services. The aim of UX research is to understand how users think, feel and behave in order to design products that better appeal to them.

In the world of software development, UX research is often used to conduct user studies, gather feedback, and improve the usability of apps, websites, and other software. It can be performed at various stages of product development, from early concept testing to post-release.

User experience research is not a standalone discipline, nor is it its own field of study. It primarily borrows techniques from various different disciplines that use analysis and research on a daily basis. It does have its own types of research, though, related to users and their digital experiences.

As with any other type of research, UX research has two stages - gathering the data and analyzing it. Pretty simple, right? However, there’s one aspect of it you should remember - user research is about digging up the truth yourself the smart way and not just asking users direct questions and expecting them to answer.

Human nature is a complicated thing. That’s why psychology exists and many other disciplines set on uncovering the secrets of the human mind and behavior. Draw your inspiration from them and try your best to understand how your product will help people. Here’s how to do it in an organized way.


How is UX research conducted?

UX research can take many different forms but typically revolves around four main methods: surveys, interviews, focus groups, and usability testing. Before trying them one by one, step back and think - is this method best suited for the issue you’re trying to solve? Here’s how you know.

Surveys are a common method of UX research. They can be used to gather demographic information, understand user needs and preferences, or evaluate satisfaction with a product or service. Surveys and questionnaires are also one of the easiest ways to collect vast amounts of user data without direct participation and spending a lot of time, which can be a downside if you need to follow up on some answers.

Interviews are another popular method of UX research - they offer a more in-depth look at users' thoughts and feelings towards a product or service. They can be performed one-on-one or in a group and have one substantial benefit over surveys - interviews give you a more personal input. Depending on the context, you can either run directed, non-directed, or ethnographic interviews that differ only by the interviewer’s involvement.

Focus groups involve bringing a group of users together to discuss a product or service. This can be a great way to generate new ideas and get feedback from multiple users at one time. Focus groups can help draw out more information in a more informal setting. However, this can also lead to less sincere answers due to what psychologists call “groupthink.”

Usability testing is a type of UX research that involves observing users as they interact with a product or service, which can be done in person or remotely, and provides insights into how users actually use a product or service. You can learn more about usability testing in our recent post on the pros and cons of usability testing.

Another two popular UX research techniques used within the four methods described above are A/B testing and card sorting. They both deal with options. A/B testing involves simply giving users two versions of one design element, A or B, to choose from, be that an image, text, button, font, color, size, or shape of an item, etc.

Card sorting is commonly included in interviews or usability tests and gives users a set of terms to categorize. The answers are then used to establish a hierarchy among items in information architecture. This technique is excellent if you want to find out if your design is logical and intuitive enough for an everyday user.


How to do a Website UX Audit: step by step guide and checklist

Qualitative versus quantitative methods

Another way to classify UX research methods is by the approach they use, which can be either qualitative or quantitative. Even though they both offer an invaluable amount of insight on their own, it’s better to use them as a pair for better results.

Qualitative methods, such as interviews and focus groups, provide richer, more in-depth data about users' thoughts and feelings. They are often used at the beginning of a project to generate new ideas and get feedback about early concepts. These methods are called qualitative because they offer non-numerical data, such as “why” people do what they do or “how” they think, etc.

Qualitative methods pros and cons
Qualitative methods pros and cons

Quantitative methods, such as surveys and usability testing, provide more objective data that can be used to measure satisfaction or track changes over time. They are often used at the end of a project to evaluate the success of a product or service. Quantitative methods use statistical analysis to interpret data and answer questions with numbers and percentages rather than explaining with words. We must do it ourselves afterward.

Quantitative methods pros and cons
Quantitative methods pros and cons

How to process your insights?

All that information gathering and research are pretty useless without properly analyzing your data and insights, which are then turned into actions. Here are a few tips on processing your insights easily and effectively:

  • Evaluate your results in stages after each research method, don’t leave everything at the end. Finished an interview? Process your findings before moving on to the next one.
  • Always discuss your results with your team and encourage them to share their opinions and insights with you.
  • Prioritize areas that mean more for the end result. Compile a priority list beforehand so you know which discovered issue you need to resolve first and which can be moved to the next step.
  • Organize your findings straight away. Use spreadsheets, diagrams, project management and analytics tools, etc. - anything that’ll help you visualize, highlight problems, and spot patterns.
  • Write recommendations for each problem spot or potential issue you have found and assign people on your team for each solution. Don’t just write a list of problems without a needed follow-up.

Want your product to attract, engage, and keep customers?

Merge is here to help.

Learn more

Why Is UX research important?

UX research is important because it helps you understand your users and design better products. It's a key part of the user-centered design process and can help avoid common design pitfalls.

At the end of the day, the benefits from user research boil down to one thing - making informed product decisions. When done correctly, it can help you:

  • Understand your users and their needs
  • Gather feedback about your product
  • Improve the usability of your product
  • Validate design decisions
  • Incorporate features of a good user interface into your product
  • Build a better overall product

In short, UX research is an essential tool for any product manager. It can help you understand your users, gather feedback, and improve the usability of your product. So, if you're not already conducting UX research, now is the time to start!

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