Abstract: User experience researchers have many methods at their disposal, and applying technology to these methods makes UXR more efficient and scalable. When deciding which method is best, it’s important to understand where you are in the UX process and the research objective at hand.
User experience research (UXR) is the study of end-users to understand their needs, wants, and behaviors. The insights collected are then used to guide the design process of a company’s products, services, and software.
Many researchers leverage traditional methods to understand user experience. However, the best approaches for good product design involve taking advantage of more modern digital techniques that help researchers better capture the context and emotion surrounding product interactions.
Here is a list of some of the most commonly used remote UXR methods:
Remote Field Studies
Researchers use remote field studies to gain a contextual understanding of user expectations, reactions, motivations, and behaviors. Field studies provide rich insights that improve product design, feature development, and service offerings.
Data is collected through an app or similar device so researchers can be where participants are as they go about their day. Capturing real-world user experiences is crucial because some situations arise in real-world situations that would never occur in a lab.
Field studies are beneficial for learning more about your target market and exploring the unknown. A field study’s purpose is to determine how people currently do things and why they do them before coming up with a solution. Researchers measure what is and is not working to determine needs and discover opportunities. As a result, UX researchers can fine-tune their strategy, journey maps, user stories, and personas.
Remote User interviews
Remote user interviews are a UXR method in which the researcher asks participants questions through a video conference-like platform to uncover their needs, beliefs, and experiences. Remote user interviews allow researchers to ask more detailed questions, identify potential problems, and build hypotheses. They’re the easiest way to get a human perspective on the world. The downside is that they’re very time-consuming. Interviews generally last 30 minutes to an hour and require a lot of scheduling coordination.
Audience mapping involves mapping the interactions between people and technology. Audience mapping is conducted in groups of up to 5 people with varying degrees of experience and expertise. Researchers leverage audience mapping methods to discover how people experience new technologies and devices. It can be used for digital and non-digital technologies.
Some companies use audience mapping as customer research for product design. Others use it to better understand their product development process and improve how they design and prototype their products. It’s a great way to learn what customers want.
Remote User testing
Remote user testing is a great way to get immediate feedback and influence the creation of new products. Researchers use user testing platforms to supplement UXR methods like audience mapping or audience research. In many ways, it’s a lot like audience mapping since the objective is to get immediate feedback on how a user will interact with a new or existing product. Participants are generally split into smaller groups, each receiving one or two user flows (i.e., scenarios). Participants are given tasks to complete, which help researchers discover what is working well with the product and what requires improvement. The insights are then used to inform the design process.
Event tracking is another way to gather qualitative data, specifically by monitoring people’s behavior and interactions with digital technologies. The most basic form of event tracking is simply to observe people as they use the product or service and then gauge the effectiveness of the design and marketing strategy.
One event tracking approach involves leveraging mobile apps to interact with participants in real-time, documenting their digital activity, primarily if the participants use the product in a highly constrained environment such as a manufacturing plant. Participants often give feedback about their experience during the controlled experiment. It can also be helpful to ask people questions and listen to what they say at random moments during their interaction with the product.
In addition to measuring UX, event tracking helps researchers and companies measure other factors that can significantly impact a product’s success. For example, one event tracking solution measures the effectiveness of specific product features. Others simply capture usage data and historical performance metrics, e.g., how long customers are engaged and how many customers complete a particular task to make more informed decisions.
Virtual Focus Groups
Virtual focus groups are used in UXR to understand how users think and act within a product. They are essential for clarifying positioning and defining target audiences.
In UXR, focus groups are usually composed of four to five people. One of the benefits of conducting a virtual focus group is that researchers can record the session. This way, researchers can focus on the specific points and experiences they want to study. If researchers are conducting a semi-structured interview, it’s helpful to have a script, but not necessary if it’s a casual discussion.
Card sorting software is another commonly leveraged UXR tool. It involves research participants sorting, grouping, and examining certain cards into smaller groups using software. Usually, researchers provide the participants with cards and then ask them to sort them into categories they think are appropriate. Researchers can provide the categories to the participants beforehand, or researchers can give participants the freedom to make their own while sorting.
Card sorting helps increase the validity of the outcome. There is a lot of trial and error involved with using such research methods because, often, results are only observed at the end of the process. Card sorting ensures that, even at the start of the process, participants can accurately represent their predicted groups.
Online surveys are a quantitative method often used by UX researchers during the listening phase to keep a pulse on user needs. Since user needs change over time, it’s vital to employ a method that can be used periodically and produces benchmarking metrics. Comparing each survey wave against past data helps UX researchers identify new user frustrations and needs.
In conclusion, user experience researchers have many methods at their disposal, and applying technology to these methods makes UXR more efficient and scalable. When deciding which method is best, it’s important to understand where you are in the UX process and the research objective at hand.