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The Importance of UX Research

User experience, or UX, is a popular term in the technology and design industries. Despite this, many people are unaware of what it is or why it’s so important. In this blog, Loren McCarthy, UI/UX Lead for Judge Consulting discusses why UX research is so important and the value it brings to businesses.  

What is UX Research? 

UX research (UXR) is the study of users and their needs, pain points, and goals. It gives us data and insights into how to design and develop the most efficient product or software possible. 

Quantitative and qualitative UX research 

UX research is conducted throughout the design lifecycle—from discovery and user interface (UI) design to testing and development. The research is both quantitative and qualitative.  

Quantitative research equates to numbers and analytics coming directly from the users and system. These metrics include data such as: 

  • How long users utilize a feature of an application 
  • How often users bounce or exit  
  • How often users log in and which devices they use 
  • How many user errors are made 

Quantitative data helps us validate assumptions and identify user patterns. 

Qualitative research gathers user insights about their overall experience. This includes insights such as: 

  • What the users found frustrating 
  • What the users found enjoyable or intuitive 
  • The pain points users encountered 
  • What slowed users down 

Both types of UX research are valuable. 

Methods of gathering UX research 

In initial discovery, Judge conducts user interviews or focus groups and organizes insights into affinity maps, which is basically the process of categorizing information with sticky notes. Grouping information reveals themes around what users feel, say, or do. Judge then conducts competitive analysis to see what its competitors are doing better, worse, or how they’re innovating—and what Judge can do differently.  

Feature inventories 

Feature inventories entail examining the product market—grocery delivery, for example—and assessing what the industries’ products already offer, such as timed delivery, Apple Pay, etc. This is how we know what new features would be innovative. 

Contextual inquiry 

Usability testing, or contextual inquiry, is also beneficial. This entails observing users in-person or virtually as they interact with a product in real time. This method of research can reveal things that metrics cannot provide. The goal of contextual inquiry is to identify what is and isn’t working, saving you valuable time and effort.  

For example, let’s look at a pharmaceutical lab using an application for quality testing. A contextual inquiry would entail going to the lab and observing people using the application so that you could understand how the environment impacts their experience. Perhaps in the lab people are required to use safety goggles and gloves, which results in them tapping things on the screen multiple times.  

As designers, we would question why they are tapping buttons multiple times. As a result, we might find that we need to make touchpoints larger and more accessible for users wearing gloves.

Why is UX research so important? 

Necessity is the mother of invention and UXR helps us to identify needs which lead to new ideas, and business opportunities. UXR also helps us to make existing products and features better for users and customers.  

UXR also helps align product teams, stakeholders, and departments. Research is valuable for everyone, from marketing teams to sales teams. Understanding who you’re building things for and advocating for them is essential. This is what allows you to make data-driven decisions and say, “I’ve spoken with our users and looked at the metrics, and this is what they’re frustrated with, and this is what is helpful to them overall.”