You may have often heard the expressions “user research” and “user experience”. The two terms are sometimes confused. Or, it can be difficult to understand what these two terms mean, and the role they play in web design.
User research (UR) and user experience (UX) are two essential elements in the process of designing a digital product. If used correctly they will prevent embarrassing situations like, metaphorically speaking, having prepared a delicious menu with meat just to discover that your guests are vegetarians.
Something like this could happen when you create a website. The final product could be excellent, but not at all what your visitors are looking for.
This is when user research comes to your rescue.
Let's find out in detail what are the differences between user research and user experience, how these two factors are complementary and how to apply them effectively to your project.
What is User Research
User research is an analyzing process aimed at knowing your customers' behaviors, needs and motivations.
This type of research provides information that is vital to understanding how and which products or services to present to your audience. It involves establishing direct contact with potential customers to understand their habits, their interests, the problems they are facing and the solutions they are looking for. In the case of existing websites or digital products, user research indicates how users interact and what they are looking for when they reach your web pages or your mobile app.
User research is the step that precedes user experience (UX). The UX has as its goal creating a pleasant experience for your user by providing them with the information or solutions they are looking for in the easiest possible way. To create an efficient UX without previously conducting quality user research is extremely challenging.
Market Research vs User Research
User research should not be confused with market research. Market research focuses on more general aspects. While user research aims to get to know the customer individually, with details that are specific to them.
For example, the purpose of market research is to establish the size of a given market, the real demand for a given product or service, demographic information about possible customers and so on.
In short, market research focuses on the quantitative aspects of a market, whereas user research focuses on the qualitative side of it. While market research helps to determine the feasibility of a project, user research deals with discerning the real needs of customers, this in turn, allows you to successfully place the product they want.
Why Conducting User Research is Important for Your Business?
User research is crucial to the success of your business. It prevents simply guessing at what your audience wants. Which could easily turn out to be wrong. If this were to happen, your business would suffer.
Thanks to effective user research, you can know exactly what your customers want. Once you've established what your audience is interested in, or identified a specific problem they want to resolve, it is easier to create a specific offer that hits the target.
As a result of this information, the web designer will be able to optimize the UX for your specific audience.
User Research Methods
Effective user research uses different methodologies to collect the necessary information. Below we will discuss some of the most effective methods that are also used by QPSoftware, web designer Shanghai agency, to develop their projects.
Core Business Model
The Core Model business is a thinking process that involves including everyone in a project to determine what are the core pages in a web project.
The core pages are the content in your website that fulfill at least one of your user tasks and help you achieve a business goal at the same time. To identify the core pages, you must know your business objective but, most importantly, you need to understand your users’ behavior.
Once you have this information, the web designer will develop the project around the core pages. Thus, creating a perfect UX for your audience.
A/B testing is a common method used to understand what works with specific users. It is an experiment that uses several options to understand which one is more effective.
For instance, you may want to create two or more versions of a landing page with different headlines, calls to actions, visual elements or something else with the purpose of understanding which one brings the best results.
Even though it is called A/B testing, you are not restricted to just two options. You can create as many variables as you like to get better metrics, or outcomes.
The click test is a quick and straightforward method used to understand which elements on your pages attract your visitors. It can also assist in validating that the design you created is helping you to reach your business goals.
Click testing consists of recording where users click on a given page. It provides the web developer important information which allows him to organize content on your interface better and to understand if the user is interacting with your page in the way you expected.
User Research Tools
The techniques for user research can be implemented by means of specific tools.
User Centered Design Canvas
User Centered Design Canvas, also known as UCDC, is an innovative tool that thoroughly analyzes user needs and business goals.
It consists of a PDF document divided into 9 fields. Each one addresses a specific need or goal of both the business and the user. Once the canvas has been completed, it will aid in better understanding the targeted user, defining the product or market fit, adjusting the business to the users’ needs, defining a Unique Value Proposition, and planning a marketing strategy.
This information, when in the hands of a capable web designer, will be critical to improving the UX.
Hotjar is a software that reveals the online behavior of your users. It tracks everything the user does when on your website like clicks, taps and scrolling behavior.
Hotjar creates heatmaps and visitor recordings to understand the user’s desires, motivations, and which elements on your interface work and which don’t. The web designer can use this data to determine how easily the user navigates the website and if core elements on your pages are attracting visitors. As a result of this analysis, the UX can be greatly enhanced to better support the business goals.
Typeform is an online program that you can use to launch a survey. A critical step in user research is analyzing the visitors to your site in order to understand who they are and what they want. Of course, this is not always possible when you run an online business with customers from different parts of the world.
Typeform, though, allows you to create surveys that you can use in different phases of your business operations. The answers that you collect will tell you if your business is in line with your customer expectations and what adjustments may be needed.
For instance, you may ask your audience to rate their experience on the website and what their suggestions are. Once this data is collected, the web developer will know exactly how to improve the UX without resorting to guesswork.
Effective User Research Phases
Effective user research requires accurate planning and actions. It is usually divided into these three phases: preparing, collecting and analyzing.
The preparation phase is when you need to decide the objective of your research. Depending on your business, or the nature of your project, you may be interested in collecting different types of information.
For instance, if you are creating a brand-new digital product, you are interested in understanding who your target customer will be, what he expects from your product, what are his main concerns and so on. If instead, you are redesigning an existing website or web app, most likely you already know this information. Therefore, you may be more interested in understanding what problems the users are experiencing when using your interface or why they do not make an expected action.
It is essential during this phase that both the client and the web agency take an active part to ensure that both business goals and user needs are properly addressed. This preparation work will help establish what questions the users need to be asked, as well as, which methods or tools will be needed to collect this data.
Once the goal of your user research is determined, it is now time to implement the methods to collect the data.
It is best not to stick to a single methodology or tool. The more tools or methods you use, the more comprehensive your data will be. However, you should always clearly have in mind the objective of your user research and implement only the tools that will help you achieve your goal.
This is one of the most challenging phases in user research. It is important that all the team members involved in the project have access to the collected data and understand it.
Communication must be kept open during this phase. Everybody, from the stakeholder to the web developer and anyone else involved in the project must agree and have confidence in the conclusion that has been drawn from the data analysis. This will ensure that everybody acts on them to make the project successful.
How Quality User Research Impacts Your Website
Quality user research is critical for the success of a website. User research must be done at a very early stage of your project. For sure, it needs to be done before the designing and development work starts.
When you handle user research efficiently, it will impact your business in several ways. When you don’t rely on guesswork, your chances of success are much higher. You will avoid wasting time and money on a project that needs to be fixed along the way.
Having a clear picture of who your target user is will help the web designer to create a customized UX that will make your business more profitable.
If you want to know more about quality user research or if you need help implementing it, contact us today. We are a leading web design agency Shanghai and we will assist you in creating the best UX for your audience.