Learning Objectives. 2
Introduction to User
Importance of User Research. 3
How to conduct User Research. 4
User Research Methods. 4
Real-Life Example about User
Knowledge Test. 6
Answers to Knowledge Test. 7
At the end of this
chapter you will get accustomed with the following topics:
What is User Research?Why User Research is
important for a given product?How to conduct a User
Research?Survey method of
conducting User Research.Interview method of
conducting User Research.Contextual inquiry method
of conducting User Research.
to User Research
User Research is research done
with people who use or would potentially use your product/service. It helps you
understand what they need and what they want. It can be done in any stage of
your product lifecycle be it design or development process. As quoted by Timothy
Embretson “You might use it to figure out why people aren’t adding recommended
products to a cart, why they’re not clicking through your emails on mobile
phone, or why adoption of your application has fallen significantly. You may
also be developing a new product or redesigning a website and know you want to
do it differently this time around. All of these are great reasons to let your
users tell you how they feel about your product.” User research also involves
the continuous evaluation of the impact of designs on the users, not only
during the design and development phase but after long-term use, too. In short,
in user research the researchers walk in the user’s shoe.
Illustration by Naintara Land
of User Research
User experience is important
because it can create the momentum that pushes the business forward. Remember,
users decide immediately whether your product is worth their time. Knowing your
target users is the key to a great user experience. You simply can’t design a
custom experience unless you have a deep understanding of the people using it.
When you know your users, user research becomes a market differentiator because
it gives customers the sense that the product is tailored to them. Not only is
user research the foundation for a great user experience, it’s a huge time
saver. It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that adding a research
phase will slow your project, but it’s really quite the opposite. User research
acts as a springboard for the design phase; user research designers can take
research findings and confidently build interaction patterns that support user
goals. This results in fewer iterations and a faster product delivery.
Also, user research may indicate
that your original vision for the product doesn’t suit a particular
demographic. If that happens, you’re able to modify your product vision before
design and development ever begin, or identify a market segment that could
better utilize your product.
Illustration by Naintara Land
Taking an example of a
mobile app, it is very important for you to understand whether a particular
feature in your app suits your users’ requirement or not. For example when you
are trying to develop the login page of your app, it is important for you to know
whether the users like the idea if logging with Facebook or other social media
pages. It can happen that users might not want to share their social media data
with your app and might not as well register for the same. In this way, you
might end up losing a significant number of users of your app. Thus, it’s
imperative that you conduct a user research before putting any feature in your
to conduct User Research
Conducting user research isn’t
just about surveys or interviews. To conduct a user research you would first
need to follow some basic steps which are mentioned below:
Step 1: Defining the
primary user group
This step involves defining or
identifying the users for whom you are developing your product or service. For
example for the mobile app that you are building, if it is an app to sell
antique products you need to identify the people who would be interested in
buying the antique products.
Step 2: Planning the involvement
of users in the research
In this step, the researcher
should select a certain number of user research techniques which he/she thinks
might be the best way to conduct a user research. The selection of the
techniques will depend on a number of factors like budget, resources available,
demographics, location etc.
Step 3: Conducting
This is the most crucial step in
the user research process as it involves the actual involvement of your target
users. In our chapter we will learn about three such techniques: Surveys,
Interviews and Contextual Inquiry.
Step 4: Validating
the user group definition
Here, after conducting the
research you can refine and filter your target user group. The results from the
research help you modify your strategy of selecting the final target users of
your product or service.
Step 5: Implementing
the feedback from the research
This is the final and the most
important step of the user research process. In this step, you implement the
feedback received from your users. If a certain feature needs to be added or
deleted, you customize that feature according to the user requirements. Taking
the example of mobile app if 70% of the users say that they don’t need the
Facebook login then you need to remove that feature from your user requirements
There are a number of user
research techniques that can be applied including but not limited to Interviews,
Contextual Inquiry, Surveys, Focus Groups, Card Sorting, Usability Testing etc.
But here in this chapter we would focus only on three techniques viz. Surveys, Interviews
and Contextual Inquiry.
Let’s briefly understand each of them.
What it is: A series of questions consisting of mainly closed-end
answers (multiple choices) used to identify patterns among a large number of
When it is useful: You want to state results in more quantitative
terms (example 80% of the target user group said they would never purchase antiques
online). You are more interested in gathering information about preference than
Challenges: Getting an appropriate sample. Making sure questions
are well written so that you get accurate answers without leading respondents
to a particular answer.
Typical Time Frame: 3-4 weeks for a short-run survey. 1 week to
plan and write the survey, 1-2 weeks to run the survey, 1 week to analyze and
Which operating system your phone
The app has changed the way I buy
Strongly AgreeAgreeNeither Agree nor DisagreeDisagreeStrongly Disagree
What it is: A one on one conversation with a participant who
belongs to one of the product’s primary user group.
When it is useful: There is access to users but type of access (in
person, by phone, email etc.) varies.
Challenges: Getting straight forward opinions. It can be hard to
gather information about attitudes and context, especially if interviews are
Typical Time Frame: 2-4 weeks for 10 interviews. Up to a week to
plan, 1-2 weeks to interview, and up to a week to compile results.
Sample questions: Do you like our app to buy antiques? Does this
app meet your expectations? Would you rather use our app or a competitor’s app
and why? What do you like to change in the app?
What it is: An on-site visit with participants to observe and learn
about how they work in their normal, everyday environment and to understand the
real life problems they are facing.
When it is useful: The project team has little information about
their target users. Users work in a unique environment (example a hospital).
Users are working with fairly complex tasks or workflows.
Challenges: Gaining access to participants. Going to users’
environment may raise concerns about security, intellectual property, and
intrusiveness. For business applications, it can be easier to visit on a
Typical Time Frame: 3-4 weeks for 10 inquiries. 1 week to plan, 1-2
weeks to observe, 1 week to analyze and report results.
Example about User Research
Case: What the failure
of New Coke can teach us about User Research and Design?1
“In the late 1970s, Pepsi was
running behind Coca-Cola in the competition to be the leading cola. But then
Pepsi discovered that in blind taste tests, people actually preferred the
sweeter taste of Pepsi. To spread the word, Pepsi ran a famous advertising
campaign, called the Pepsi Challenge, which showed people tasting the two
brands of cola while not knowing which was which. They chose Pepsi every time.
As Pepsi steadily gained market
share in the early 1980s, Coca-Cola ran the same test and found the same
result—people simply preferred Pepsi when tasting the two side by side. So,
after conducting extensive market research, Coca-Cola’s solution was to create
a sweeter version of its famous cola—New Coke. In taste tests, people preferred
the new formula of Coke to both the regular Coke formula and to Pepsi.
Despite this success in tests,
when the company brought New Coke to market, customers revolted. New Coke
turned out to be one of the biggest blunders in marketing history. Within
months, Coke returned its original formula—branded as “Coca-Cola Classic”—to
In the end, sales showed that
people preferred Coke Classic. But Coca-Cola’s research predicted just the
opposite. So what went wrong?
The tests had people drink one or
two sips of each cola in isolation and then decide which they preferred based
on that. The problem is, that’s not how people drink cola in real life. We
might have a can with a meal. And we almost never drink just one or two sips.
User research is just as much about the way the research is conducted as it is
about the product being researched.”
At what stage of the product lifecycle one can
conduct user research?
Idea StageDesign StageDevelopment StageGrowth StageMaturity StageAll of the above
Select the statement which is not true in the
context of user research.
User research is the foundation for a great user
experience.User research acts as a springboard for the
design phase.User research designers can take research
findings and confidently build interaction patterns that support user goals.User research increases your budget and slows
Which is the best user research method if you
want to state results in more quantitative terms?
InterviewsSurveysContextual InquiryNone of the above
Which user research method works when the
project team has little information about their target users?
InterviewsSurveysContextual InquiryNone of the above
User research should be conducted without
identifying the target user group.
to Knowledge Test
All of the aboveUser research increases your budget and slows
your project.SurveysContextual InquiryFalse