Designing an application or website isn’t as simple as putting up a few images and writing a bit of text. In order for it to be successful for your business, the project must be meticulously planned, researched, and tested. User experience (UX) research and testing are some of the most crucial elements of app and web design, yet they are also some of the most misunderstood.
The goal of UX research is to find what works and what doesn’t. By compiling both numerical and opinion-based data, you can ensure your final product is high quality and usable. If you want to get a project done right, you’re going to want to use the best method for your project.
What are the Common UX Research Methods?
Broadly speaking, there are two types of research methods that are consistent with UX testing: quantitative and qualitative. In user experience research, these different methods are based on whether the study is a direct or indirect analysis.
A quantitative study focuses on indirect results rather than direct observations. This UX research method is numbers focused. It is thought to be the What data in an analysis—the quantity. An example of this is analytics, such as pageviews, bounce rate, click throughs, and frequency of visits. The quantitative approach requires testing at the beginning or ending of design cycles to ensure there is enough data to work from.
Quantitative testing typically runs quicker as the information generates faster—even with large groups. You can take a hands-off approach during the testing process then come back to the data when it is compiled. Because you’re focused on numerical data, it tends to be more objective as well.
When should you use quantitative UX testing?
- When you’re at the beginning or end of a design cycle and want statistical feedback
- When you want a larger scale, controlled study focused on hard data
- When you’re less concerned with emotionally driven thoughts and feelings of the UX design
- When you want to compare your data with a competitor’s site or application
Quantitative testing is typically performed on a larger scale—whether it be a longer period of time to collect analytics or a physically higher number of people. This ensures you get a good sample size. The statistics you receive from a quantitative lens will be able to provide scientific context to whatever you’re testing.
A qualitative method refers to a more direct user experience analysis. The researchers directly observe users experiencing the interface during UX testing. The analysts note what the users struggle with and can follow up with questions for participants regarding their experience. Qualitative studies allow flexibility in changing up the testing focus with the feedback they receive so researchers can observe how new users react in similar situations.
Qualitative user experience research focuses on the thoughts and feelings of a participant rather than the numbers alone. It is more of the Why data that focuses on the emotional reasoning. It’s an interactive UX testing method that creates a narrative between the tester, the analyst, and the product itself. Because this is a more direct and personal UX research method, the testing group size will ultimately be smaller than a quantitative study.
When should you use qualitative UX testing?
- When you want your data to include participant commentary that quantitative results may not reveal
- When you want to directly observe first-hand what a user will experience
- When you want instinctual thoughts and feelings a user may have about your UX design
- When you need feedback and you’re in the middle of a design cycle
You can use this method whether you are in the actual UX design process or once you have a working product. Qualitative testing will ensure you find usability issues and figure out a solution to address them.
When to Use Each UX Research Method
Whether qualitative or quantitative (or a blend of both), these UX research methods break down into a larger list.
The card sorting method is essentially what it sounds like. Participants take physical or digital “cards” and sort them into groups. The physical cards can even be made with something as simple as sticky notes! Participants then move the different card elements into the groups they see fit. As an example, the groups could be the different primary pages for the website or application, and the cards may include the information that go on the pages.
Card sorting is flexible and can be done both remotely and face-to-face. This user research method is a hybrid between qualitative and quantitative. In a more hands-on approach, researchers can conduct interviews with users to learn the Why. If choosing the remote, digital approach, it is easier to let the testers complete their task then researchers can easily analyze the data afterward to learn the What.
There are two primary ways of going about this testing process: open and closed. In an open method, testers sort the cards and give each group a label. This method is suited for both initial design or redesign phases for a website or application. The closed method typically occurs after an initial open card sorting test is complete as researchers have the participants sort the cards into predetermined categories.
Poor navigation is one of the primary reasons that visitors leave a website. If they cannot find the information they are looking for, it is likely they will bounce. First-click testing allows you to observe how long it takes for someone to find the information they are looking for on your website or mobile application.
This UX testing method will help you determine how user friendly your design is. It can be both quantitative and qualitative depending on whether you choose to focus on the click data or prepare some questions for feedback from the testers.
Heuristic evaluation refers to multiple people testing your website or mobile application for usability errors. In this user experience testing, participants will evaluate your product on their own. This method is best performed in smaller groups, as larger groups will not drastically change your data.
This is a primarily qualitative method as you are seeking unbiased feedback from evaluators after they complete their tasks.
If product design is created by a team, it is likely parallel design research came into the equation. Parallel design user research refers to a group evaluating multiple design concepts and providing their feedback on each. Each team member can bring their idea to the table. Testers can then compare and contrast the different designs to bring you to a high-quality end product.
This study creates dialogue, which puts it under the qualitative category. Ultimately, you will learn the pros and cons of design mockup so you can take the positive and leave behind the poorer concepts.
Rather than focusing on a generic user, the persona method creates a connection with the people who will be using your website or mobile application. It is best to limit to four persona profiles based on characteristics like age, gender, and education. Creating these personas gives a better understanding of who will be accessing your site which allows you to brainstorm the design principles of how they will use it.
Persona profiles are based on both qualitative, such as interviews, and quantitative, such as web analytics, principles.
Prototyping is a team-building user research method where designers create mockups, either on paper, digitally, or in HTML, on how the application will look and run. Prototypes can be created at any stage in the design process. The pen and paper route allows for a quick turnaround while a digital or HTML prototype gives more context into the reality of the end product.
This method is a mix of qualitative and quantitative. It is qualitative in the fact that there is open discussion among the team, but more quantitative when creating HTML-based prototypes that can be beta tested.
The task analysis method is more step oriented. It starts off by finding what the user’s goals are and identifying what is to be analyzed. The whole task is broken down into small subtasks to be researched. For example, if the primary task is trying to find out how users can find your website, you could break it up into subtasks like SEO analysis and social media research.
This method is primarily quantitative as researchers are finding concrete number-based answers. Taking from the example, they could use Google Analytics to track how their SEO keywords are working or use integrated social media business tools to track page visits.
Usability testing is performed to gather both quantitative and qualitative data. Essentially, a group of participants evaluate the usability of your website or application and provide feedback. Researchers are also able to compile measurable data, such as timing or number of clicks to reach a specific destination. Usability testing is especially important to grasp all aspects of your project.
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Code Authority uses a variety of UX research testing methods to ensure high-quality end products. Whether you’re interested in a website design refresh, or you want to finally build that mobile app you’ve been dreaming about, our software development team will work with you every step of the way. Contact us for a free estimate!