Making Sense of UX Research
As UX researchers and designers, we understand the critical role that user experience research plays in creating successful products that meet the needs of our customers. However, conducting research is only the first step in the process – effectively communicating the findings is equally important. We must structure our findings in a way that allows us to identify key themes and customer pain points, while also resonating with our stakeholders.
In this blog post, we will explore various proven approaches to structuring your UX research findings. By implementing these techniques, you’ll be able to more clearly understand your customers’ needs and effectively communicate your findings to your team. So, without further ado, let’s dive into these approaches and discover how they can help you create more successful digital products for your customers.
1) Curate and execute a UX strategy
Before diving into your UX testing and organization methods, it is important to have an overarching roadmap in place. This will allow you to approach everything in a more structured way, and will make organizing your findings easier and more standardized. In the realm of UX research, data-led decisions and insights are the lifeblood of a positive UX experience. Determining your research goals and hypothesis first is essential to long-term success, user-satisfaction and even stakeholder engagement, as the perceived outcomes become more tangible. In theory, starting with customer personas and empathy maps are fundamental to starting your research. Insights derived from these methodologies will then allow you to scale your long term research plans with the end-user in mind!
2) Diversify your testing, approaches and methodologies to validate insights
Utilize Personas, and Mixed Method User Research
By utilizing Personas, Mixing Qualitative and Quantitative testing methods, etc., you will create many sources of customer / user data, therefore minimizing gaps in your UX insights and providing you with a thorough and complete picture of customer insights to analyze. It is not sufficient to only rely on one style of testing. Qualitative data can give data meaning – answering the whys, understanding perceptions and behaviors and emotional sentiments. Whereas quantitative provides you with statistical validation, and measurable data. Relying too heavily on one approach would leave you exposed to unknown truths and essential information that would help support end-users. Diversifying your qualitative methodologies is also key. Only relying on in-depth interviews would not yield the same “natural” flow and feedback of an unmoderated diary study, for example. Both produce different insights. Similarly, only using rating questions and ignoring time on task data also creates the same issue – gaps in your data!
Take Advantage of Technology
Technology can make what might sound like a time-consuming approach much faster and easier to gather data. Especially when we consider advancements in artificial intelligence, eye tracking or sentiment analysis. While different organizations often have access to tools and technology that may get the job done “well enough,” there are a multitude of tools specifically created for UX researchers to streamline their process and the impact of the insights they uncover. For example, platforms dedicated to usability testing are a great way to test live products, prototypes and even concepts for refinement.
A platform like Userlytics provides a one-stop shop that focuses solely on high-impact, UX insights. The platform also includes a panel pool of over 2 million participants for recruitment, and unlimited seats so researchers can share and collaborate in UX processes. Other invaluable tools, like Aurelius Labs, help UX researchers capture findings from multiple tools or sources in one place to supercharge analysis, sense-making and insights creation across multiple types of research. Turning insights into action and getting those findings into the hands of other people in your organization is critical. Rather than compromising that work by using general business tools, a platform like Aurelius is built specifically for researchers to get the most out of insights and recommendations.
3) Utilize “tags” to identify key moments / insights
Making Sense of UX Research
If you’ve defined a UX research strategy already, you’ll be in great shape to speed up your analysis and sense-making process from research by using tags that align to that strategy. Tags are a popular feature in many UX research analysis tools to help you code, label and organize pieces of data you gather. Tags are also critical building blocks for a research repository to help you search, organize and share insights later. Luckily, once you’ve created a UX research strategy, you can use it to define how and where to use tags to speed up research analysis, sharing and global organization.
For individual projects, use tags that identify and group data that aligns with your goals for the study. For example, you can use tags that will help you quickly review pain points, topics and themes from multiple interviews or usability tests. Tagging data in this way offers a boost to thematic analysis, affinity mapping and grouping common data points across participants. Within a repository, work with your team and stakeholders to understand the needs in how people expect to find, use and organize research insights. From there, agree on a common taxonomy or application of tags that help searching, retrieving and acting on insights and recommendations within your repository tool. Using tags that align to your overall business goals, product lines, teams and overarching UX research strategy will allow your insights to have a greater impact long after a single study is done.
With the right research tools, like Userlytics and Aurelius, you can even rely on tagging systems to help generate quotes and annotation notes during live interviews with your participants. As such, tagging systems can be used to easily generate highlight reel videos, for example, that can help bring data and insight to life. Tagging your insight not only keeps your insight organized, it also helps you bring key information to the forefront of your analysis. This becomes essential when sharing insights with external partners or clients as they get to hear, see and experience the insight directly from the user!
4) Create a UX repository
Making Sense of UX Research
As you continue to gather research from multiple sources, capture insights and make recommendations, you’ll quickly find it’s difficult to keep everything organized across studies, topics, products and teams. A UX research repository is aimed squarely at solving this problem – to centralize all your research and insights in one place.
There are often multiplying benefits to creating a user research repository. When done well, with a tool built for the purpose, they will aid the team in speeding up the process of analysis and insights creation. In turn, by using a purpose built tool for that work, you inevitably end up building a scalable research repository with no additional effort. Analyzing research data and capturing insights in a repository allows for a natural flow within the common UX research process. This dramatically improves the ease and ability of searching, organizing and sharing insights later. Ultimately, not only can you streamline the process of conducting research and capturing insights but you’ll be setting yourself up for getting greater mileage out of past research as well.
Most successful teams assign a person or team to own the repository, establish guidelines for use and act at the steward or librarian of the tool you choose. This person(s) should set the tone for how research insights can and should be used, as well as how they will be organized and findable within the repository.
Start building out a UX repository by adding past research. Then, tag and label it according to the standards and guidance of that person or team appointed to manage the repository. From here, you’ve got a solid start to begin unlocking greater potential out of previous research insights.
Establish a habit for conducting new research and adding it in the repository as part of the standard UX research approach on your team. This should include suggested use for tags and taxonomy to quickly search and share these critical insights to the rest of your company.
5) Insights and inferences: Determining pain points and next steps
Use insight to draw inferences
When we conduct research, we are ultimately trying to answer the question “what do our users want? What do they need?” By extension, when we are completing our analysis of a UX study, we must be able to clearly outline and explain precisely what users disliked, liked, and expected. The old saying “writing down the problem is half the solution” is directly applicable to UX research insights. If we can write down the problem, we can then deploy a solution. This is key because as we’ve learned, having a clear plan or UX strategy requires insight. And if we are able to not only solve a problem, but clearly mark the actionable items that coincide with usability issues or user errors, we can harness insights to create next steps.
Most times, researchers identify problems and identify a solution, but don’t direct the next move for the research. This is where leveraging insights to create a clear path forward comes into play. As practitioners, we need to rely on insights, but we also must be able to draw inferences to help guide our research. These two terms, insight and inference, are often used interchangeably, though they are not the same thing. An insight is a clear understanding of a particular aspect of a problem or a situation. It is the outcome of analyzing data and identifying patterns or trends. On the other hand, an inference is a logical conclusion drawn from existing information or data. It involves using available evidence to make educated guesses or predictions about what is likely to happen or what might be true.
If we use insights to help draw inferences – coupled with UX experience and prowess – we can then clearly mark the best course of action for our assets, clients and stakeholders. Conducting research and learning about the positive and negative outcomes is great, but if we don’t clearly set actionable steps from our research, we are missing a very important step to creating a positive user experience in a timely, impactful manner.
Use data visualizations
A quick tip! Using graphs, tables and other visualizations can be instrumental in helping curate actionable plans for your research. Visualizing data on user behavior before and after implementing UX changes, for example, can allow you to forecast the measurable impacts of those changes in a simplified manner, which empowers you to make strategic decisions. For example, a bar chart or a line graph could be used as a data visualization to display the abandonment rates of each step in the checkout process of an e-commerce site. If we can effectively visualize which steps on the process led to user dissatisfaction or dropout rates, we are better equipped to set next steps for our UX testing!
6) Share your results – often and everywhere
Making Sense of UX Research
Consider timing and intention when sharing UX research and insights
Just like the old philosophical question “If a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound?”, we can ask ourselves “If you gather great insights but never share them, do they have an impact?”
Of course it’s vital to share the knowledge and insights we learn from our customers with the right people to inspire action and improve our products and services. Consider timing and intention for sharing.
Sharing the immediate results from a study recently completed makes sense to do so in some form of project report, soon after the final participant session. Other more “reactive” sharing sessions take place when a group or stakeholder asks “do we have any research about our users check out experience?” – or any variation of that kind! If you’ve been building a research repository, you’ll have the ability to find all your insights and data about that topic and quickly share it using built in tools for the purpose. It also makes sense to establish a cadence for sharing research across a set of topics, departments, products, themes or customer segments at a regular interval. For example, you can influence the behavior of folks in your company by setting expectations for a monthly or quarterly summary of the research done about a certain topic or area. This can have huge positive impacts for prioritizing upcoming research studies and new product development.
Making Sense of UX Research
Don’t be afraid to collaborate within your team and beyond
A collaborative approach to UX research will always yield stronger, more impactful results – so long as the integrity of the test is not compromised. This also means going beyond your traditional ‘analysis” and “research’ departments. Instead, be open to working with your development team, your operations teams, and beyond, because each collaborator can bring a fresh perspective or promising suggestions. Proactively sharing patterns that you and your team find across multiple, or even seemingly unrelated studies, is a great way to demonstrate value to your colleagues and the entire company. By sharing research insights about the pain points, needs and expectations of customers in a consistent way, you’ll have a greater impact with your work, cultivate UX research buy-in and foster deeper empathy across the entire organization.
Interested in UX Testing?
Making Sense of UX Research
About the Author: Nicholas Aramouni
Nicholas Aramouni is a Senior UX Researcher and Communications Manager who has developed his qualitative and quantitative knowledge by working within a variety of industries, including music entertainment, media, technology and education. Across his career, Nick has conducted numerous international studies in countries all around the globe, placing importance on developing international partnerships as a means of better understanding the various cultures and markets that push UX researchers further. Nicholas has enhanced his involvement in UX by also working as a marketing content strategist and speaker in the field. He has proudly completed a B.A in Policy Studies, a minor in Business Innovation and a B.A in Education.Read More Articles by Nicholas