UX Research Process

In my experience as a UX strategist and researcher, it is difficult and sometimes impossible to share my work due to NDAs and changes that occur later in project lifecycle. 

It doesn’t get past me that UX research is seemingly intangible. Dendrograms, pie trees, and 50-page data-filled reports have no merit on their own. To truly use your skills to inspire others to take action, invest in your work, and trust in your process, it is critical to craft a story. It is pretty ironic that on of the least user-friendly deliverables are UX deliverables.

In order to help teams make sense of the data and understand my research process I have to start with the WHY. Why has research been brought in and what has already been done? What do stakeholders want to know? What are their motivations for the redesign or UX discovery? Data analysis is extremely granular and before I am able to start designing a study I need to know what the business needs are and what they believe the user needs are. 

Looking to sources in customer service, social media feeds, and web analytics can help identify pain points and research topics. This information gives my test plans direction and strengthens the business questions that have been provided by key stakeholders.

Now that I have more information about what I know and do not know, I can start thinking about which testing method makes sense. The key UX research factors are:

  1. What is your budget & timeline?

  2. Is the business looking to overhaul the site or simply make a few smaller updates?

  3. Are the potential and known issues caused by UI design or with findability & discoverability?

After answering these questions I am able to determine whether or not to run a discount usability study or a multi-tiered card sorting study. Implementing the wrong type of study can be costly and provide misleading results. Therefore, it is important to look at what you already know and make sure that the research process not only fits with the project scope but is able to lead and direct design decisions.

As I'm going through the list of questions, I have found that my research process changes multiple times. Isn’t there some lovely quote out there? Oh it is, “The only constant is change.” Isn’t that the truth! For example, a stakeholder's goals can drastically change in a matter of a few months. You never know! I call these moments "pivot-points" in the research process. Pivot-points can be frustrating to UX designers, stakeholders, and all other account folks involved in the project –especially when UX research is not well-integrated into the workflow.

UX research sets the foundation for successful product design. It provides structure and establishes benchmarks that can make KPI goals more tangible and actionable.

Make your UX research process transparent by informing your teams of how each of the key UX research factors influences your process. Research is extremely nuanced and can constantly change based on new information. Keep your stakeholders invested and coworkers informed by providing an overview process at the beginning and identify pivot-points from the get-go.