Research methods for the discovery stage
Gather information for the project discovery stage with:
- Stakeholder interviews to understand the business requirements and constraints of the project
- Field studies to observe people interacting with problems that you’re trying to solve
- User interviews to get to know most frequent issues with the system
- Diary studies to better understand users’ behavior
- Competitive testing to discover the strengths, weaknesses and key features of competing products
Stage 2: Explore
The exploration stage revolves around understanding the problem at hand, defining the project scope, and addressing user needs the right way. We explore by comparing our product and features with competitors’, creating user personas, writing user stories, and doing design reviews.
Everything is designed. Few things are designed well.
Research methods for the explore stage
Some of the most popular methods used during the exploration stage are:
- Task analysis to analyze a task step by step, from a user's perspective
- Design reviews to identify weak spots in a product
- Journey mapping – to visually model a process to understand user needs and pain points
- Writing user stories to focus on user goals and priorities
- Competitive analysis to determine how a product performs against its competitors
- Persona building to create realistic representations of audience segments for reference
- Card sorting to find out how to structurize your navigation and information architecture
- Prototype testing to figure out the key problems
Stage 3: Test
Tests and other validation methods help us check if our designs work well while we develop them.
Pay attention to what users do, not what they say.
Research methods for the testing stage
Common user research techniques for the testing stage are:
- Qualitative usability testing (in-person or remote) to gather detailed qualitative feedback from your users
- Benchmark testing to observe the product’s progress over time
- Accessibility evaluation to ensure the universal access to your product
Stage 4: Listen
The listening stage runs throughout the entire UX design process. Gathering data and monitoring all the information related to the product will help you understand existing problems and identify new ones.
A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good.
Research methods for the listening stage
The best methods for the listening stage are:
- Consumer surveys to get low-cost feedback
- User feedback review to see what people are saying about your product in reviews, complaints, social media messages, forum posts, and more
- Search-log analysis to discover what terms people use when searching for products / features like yours
- Usability-bug review to uncover common usability problems
- FAQ review to understand and answer user questions
If you have resources for only one user research method, use this
The discover, explore, test, listen cycle ends only when you stop improving your product. There are always new things to explore, consider, implement, and test.
Choose your user research methods according to your project type, constraints, available resources, and present issues. If your circumstances allow just one activity, Norman Nielsen Group recommends using qualitative usability testing for already existing products.
It’s a simple, cheap, flexible, and easy way to gather insights.
There are many ways to conduct user research, but you don’t have to use all of them in your project. The primary goal of user research is to be informed and inspired. As long as you’re doing that, you should be able to make the right decisions for your users — and business.