You aren’t able to get a user-experience design without the research to back it up. The whole point of using UX design is to help serve your target audience or user base, so you need to know what they want and need. Choosing the right user research tools can help you get the best research results.
Define Your Problem
In order to find the right tools, you need to define your needs. You will then determine the method you use by the types of answers you need. Are you testing a design? Thinking about adding new features? Looking for an opportunity? Where you are in the design process and what your current problems are can help you establish what you need to narrow down your options. At the beginning state, discovering user needs will be the priority. Toward the end state, your focus should be on making sure the users can easily navigate your design.
Define the Type of Data You Need
When you know what your problem is, you can narrow down what you need to know. There are two dimensions for UX research. Understanding the data of each approach can help you pick the right one for your needs. You can choose between qualitative vs. quantitative or behavioral vs. attitudinal. These four types of research will make up the combination of your research approach.
To choose the ideal combination, you need to think about the answers you want and the best way to get them. Do you need to know why users do something or do you need to know that they do it in the first place? Should you observe your users or just listen to them? When you know the quadrant you are operating under, you can start to narrow down your research method by thinking about the context in answering the questions.
Your product involvement can be natural, scripted, decontextualized, or hybrid. If you want to test a product in that natural state, you need to understand user interaction as realistically as you can. If you are choosing scripted, you are just testing a specific usage area or a redesign. For decontextualized research, the product isn’t even involved and a hybrid is a combination of these three.
Putting Everything Together to Pick a Method
The research method you are choosing will depend on the stage of the design process you are in and what you need to know. You should always conduct research first to understand how your product is going to meet your audience’s needs.
You won’t be able to test the effectiveness of your product until you even know what “effective” is going to mean. Attitudinal and behavioral research both have some value, but typically it’s best to observe behavior to discover needs instead of just asking outright. Users don’t always give the best answers, since they may not know what they are missing. New inventions come out all the time for things people didn’t know they actually needed.
Decide if what people believe and think is more valuable to you than what they do with the product. This is the same if it’s more valuable to have number data or verbal data on how and why users exhibit a behavior. Often, qualitative research determines motivations and thoughts and quantitative research looks at success.
Once you have determined the type of research, then figure out the product’s context. If it’s more about the company or user, then you don’t need to involve the product. If you are testing product design, use scripted or natural methods. There is no perfect research method, but with a little thought, you can get the research that will be most beneficial.