CommonLounge Archive

What are some User Research methods?

November 06, 2017

With dozens of user research methods available, it’s not realistic to expect that you can use them all on a single project. However, it’s possible to determine which methods are the most appropriate according to the following criteria:

  • Attitudes vs Behavior
  • Quality vs Quantity
  • Context of Use

Attitudes vs Behavior

This is the difference between what people say versus what people do, and it is often quite a big difference.

Attitudinal research is useful to find out people’s opinions and how they perceive information, and it provides a general view of what people think about brands, products or other concepts.

Behavioral research reveals what people do, such as what they click on, where they look and how long they stay on a page.

Many UX methods use a mix of self-reported and behavioral data, although behavioral data is generally seen as being more useful.

Quality vs Quantity

Qualitative data is generated by direct observation, while quantitative data is obtained through surveys or other analytics tools.

For example, during a field study, a researcher directly observes how people use a system to meet their needs. The researcher can ask questions or adjust the protocol to better meet their objectives.

In contrast, a quantitative method will typically generate data from mathematical analysis since the tools usually capture large amounts of data.

Due to these differences, qualitative methods are better suited at answering questions about why or how to fix a problem. Quantitative methods do a much better job determining “how many” and “how much” of something is needed.

Context of Use

Determine how test users will use the product or service, like:

  • Will they use it naturally?
  • Will they use it according to a script?
  • Are they using it at all?
  • A mix of the above

If your test users are using the product or service naturally, your goal is to minimize interference in order to for their behavior to be as close to reality as possible.

If you give your test users a script, you probably want them to focus on a specific aspect or feature of your product or service.

If you want to study whether your product is used or not, you want to find out about issues outside of usability such as brand and cultural behaviors.

Hybrid methods such as participatory design allow users to interact with the design and rearrange elements to inform the proposed solution and how it could meet their needs.

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