UX Research: a complete overview

In this article, we provide a complete overview of the tools, methods and techniques used to conduct user experience research, which is often abbreviated as UX research. Based on the following topics, we will help you get started: 

1.    What is UX research?
2.    When should you conduct UX research?
3.    The benefits of user experience research
4.    What does a UX researcher do?
5.    UX research: the different dimensions
6.    Research techniques and UX tools

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

UX Research: a complete overview

In this article, we provide a complete overview of the tools, methods and techniques used to conduct user experience research, which is often abbreviated as UX research. Based on the following topics, we will help you get started: 

1.    What is UX research?
2.    When should you conduct UX research?
3.    The benefits of user experience research
4.    What does a UX researcher do?
5.    UX research: the different dimensions
6.    Research techniques and UX tools

When to conduct UX Research?

If you are going to conduct UX research (or have it conducted), you obviously want to make sure you get the most out of it. Depending on the phase your website or app is in and the research question that goes with it, you decide which methodology to use. (More on this later in the article)

The most common phases where UX research is applied, we have listed for you below:

  • Before the (re)design and development process starts. To validate a concept or idea, concept research is often conducted in this phase. Are you going through a redesign process? Then it is valuable to conduct usability research with a combination of existing customers and people who are not yet familiar with the website or app.  
  • During the (re)design and development process. In order to gather feedback at an early stage, companies often choose to test a click-through prototype.
  • After launching the website or app. To continue improving your app or website after its launch, it is important to conduct regular usability and customer research. This often involves using a combination of different UX research techniques.


What is UX Research?

UX research or user research is the use of various research techniques with the aim of gaining insight into the behaviors, context and underlying motivations of the end user.

User experience research, also known as user research, is inextricably linked to UX design and prevents making decisions based on gut feelings and assumptions.

In fact, UX research is so closely intertwined with user experience design that it is impossible to execute UX design without UX research behind it.

Different terms are used for user experience research: UX Research and user research all refer to user experience research.


UX Research: the different dimensions

Depending on the research question at hand, different research techniques can be used to answer it.

Although user experience research is a fairly new field, most of the research techniques used have been around for much longer. The different research techniques can be divided according to two dimensions: quantitative / qualitative, attitudinal / behavioural.         

Quantitative and qualitative UX research.
In quantitative user experience research, an attempt is made to make a statement about the entire population based on a sample. This often requires large numbers.

Conducting quantitative UX research is often most appropriate at the time when there are research questions that need to answer 'what', 'where' and 'when'.

In qualitative user experience research, the focus is more on the human side of the hard data by investigating underlying motivations and motives. While the sample size is smaller than in quantitative research, it is continued to the point where no new information is collected.

Qualitative UX research focuses not so much on what happens, but on why certain behaviors occur. Research questions in qualitative UX research often answer questions like "why" and "how.

Attitudinal and behavioural UX research
Another way to divide the various UX research techniques is to consider whether they are attitudinal or behavioural in nature.

Attitudinal research focuses on what people say, think, for example, of in-depth interviews and focus groups. Behavioural research, on the other hand, looks at what users do. Here you can think of eye-tracking, heatmaps or A/B tests.

UX research techniques and UX tools

Now that the dimensions of UX research are clear, we'll help you get started by providing a brief overview of the most common UX research techniques.  

(Un)moderated usability research
Chances are you have heard of usability or user testing; it is one of the most well-known UX research techniques. During a usability test (on-site or online), users are asked to use a website and think out loud while doing so. You can read more about conducting usability research on this page.

Our favorite tool? You guessed it: that's User Sense.

Biometric UX Research
Biometric UX research, also known as biometric research, provides insight into the unconscious behavior of users. Using brain scans (often in the form of EEG), eye-tracking and emotion recognition, an attempt is made to make a statement about how users feel when using a website, app or prototype.

Using heatmaps, you can easily gain insight into what users do on a website. The most interesting heatmaps are the rage clicks, click, heatmaps and move heatmaps. Microsoft Clarity and Hotjar are frequently used tools for this purpose.

A/B Testing
To find out whether a proposed change (e.g. resulting from usability research) will actually have a positive impact, the use of A/B testing is extremely suitable. Common tools for this are Google Optimize, Optimizely and VWO.

Card Sorting
Card sorting is a UX technique that can give you insight into how users expect information to be arranged on a website or app. During a card sorting survey, you can ask users to categorize items on a website into categories that seem logical to them. This can be done online via, for example, OptimalWorkshop.

Online surveys
Another common method of investigating the UX is by sending questionnaires to existing and/or potential customers. This UX technique is more quantitative in nature. Common tools for this are Surveymonkey, Typeform and Google Forms.

In-depth Interviews
In-depth interviews are often conducted to gather more information about the target audience you want to reach. In-depth interviews are often used when conducting concept research, where a new idea or concept is presented to the target audience.

To reach the target audience, UX researchers often work with a recruiting firm to recruit respondents. To conduct in-depth interviews, you can use Microsoft Teams or Zoom - or a tool like the one from User Sense (and you guessed it; that one is our preference).

Focus groups
UX researchers also use focus groups to gather additional information. These usually take place offline, as that often works better than via a video call.

Diary Study
In a diary study, testers are asked to use a product or service for an extended period of time and make notes in between on how they experienced it. Unlike many other research techniques, a diary study provides an overview of the user experience over a longer period of time.


What does a UX researcher do?

A UX Researcher is - you guessed it - responsible for conducting UX research and user research. In many organizations, this is a crucial function; the UX Researcher represents the voice of the end user, often making him or her the basis of major business or design decisions.

While every company is different, the tasks a UX Researcher performs are often broadly the same. UX Researchers often take care of the following research phases:

  • Drafting the research questions. The UX Researcher's task is to summarize the issues into a well-defined main question and associated sub-questions in order to ultimately answer the main question.
  • Choosing the right methodology (and UX tool). Once the research questions are clear, as a UX Researcher you will look for the most appropriate methodology and tool (and corresponding budget if necessary).
  • Execute the research technique. In this phase, you know what research questions need to be answered and what methodology you are going to use. That means the fun part can begin: conducting the research with the target audience.
  • Analyzing the research results. In this phase the research results are in and it is important to analyze the results in a transparent and structured way. This is with the aim of being able to easily deduce patterns after the analysis.  
  • Writing UX research reports. Have you conducted the research and discovered patterns? Then it's a matter of summarizing the findings in a clear and to-the-point UX research report.

Because UX Research has grown significantly in popularity in recent years, you can see that many people who now work as UX researchers have entered from a different direction.

Still, more and more companies are now looking for UX'ers with demonstrable experience. Do you want to get started as a UX Researcher or designer yourself? Then it is advisable to follow a training course in this field, for example at the UX Design Institute.

The benefits of user experience research

Where a graphic designer makes design decisions based on the client briefing, their own experience and assumptions, a UX designer does so based on UX research. But what does that deliver in concrete terms?

  • A better product.  By testing a website, app or concept with the target audience, you ensure that pain points and obstacles become clear and can be fixed.
  • Strong business growth. The beauty of UX research is that it not only makes for happier customers, but also has a direct impact on conversion. 
  • More satisfied end users. By listening to (potential) customers, you not only give them the feeling that you are listening to them, but you also make sure that you develop a website or app that fits their needs.

Want to find out what users think?

Book a demo with us so that you can see the power of usability testing for yourself!