Ways to do UX research in different stages

If you want to make a worthwhile digital solution for your customers and business, you have to do UX research. That can be done in many ways: UX research is a very broad concept. You could do user testing, for instance – that’s what we, at Happy Labs, are specialized in. Anyway, in this blog we’ll walk you through some ways to apply UX research in different phases of the development of your product, site, or app.

Research and design lab Valsplat distinguishes three types of research: Fundamental research, explorative research, and evaluative research. We take these categories as our starting point.

Phase 1: Fundamental UX research

If you are developing an entirely new concept or if you are thinking about the future of your company or product, it is important to understand the world of your customers through and through. What are their deeper lying needs and frustrations? What do their days look like? What do they dream about? To find answers to these kinds of questions, you have to do research.

For instance, you can do:

  • Diary studies: Often, people aren’t aware of their own needs and behavior. So an interview of only an hour might not be enough to get to the bottom of things. With a diary study you follow people over a longer period of time, for instance through WhatsApp. You ask them questions. Give them tasks. And you ask them to send pictures. This way, you learn all about their context and needs. 
  • Group interviews: You sit around the table with about 6 participants, ask them questions and have them do creative exercises. If you facilitate the sessions properly, you get a group dynamic that uncovers stories that would have remained hidden otherwise. A good ‘warming up’ for a group interview is a diary study. It helps you ask better and more relevant questions. 
  • In-depth interviews: you sit one-on-one with the participant. Instead of simply showing them a site or app, you ask more contextual questions. You have the participant do creative exercises and trigger them with images and words. Through this, you discover deeper lying stories and experiences. What goes for group interviews, also goes for in-depth interviews: Doing a diary study is a great ‘warming up’.
    • In-context research: Much of our behavior is unconscious; partly for that reason there is a difference between what people say they do and what they actually do. Products and services in which the environment plays an important part, like a museum, offer a great opportunity: You can observe people and get insights into unconscious behavior, environmental factors, and latent needs.

    Phase 2: Explorative research

    When you understand the deeper lying needs and frustrations of your customers, you can start thinking of possible solutions. Once you have a bunch of ideas, you translate them into a prototype to test it with your audience. Your idea might sound nice, but does it actually work? Or are you missing the mark? Testing new ideas can be done in many different ways.

    For instance, you can do:

    • Concept test: You jump into the lab to show your prototype (containing your new ideas) to your users. You can put tons of ideas in one prototype – this helps you discover what works and what doesn’t as early as possible. Based on the feedback you get, you redo your design and test it again. Until it is good enough.
    • Design sprint: In a design sprint you come up with solutions for your problem or challenge, you translate it into a prototype, and test it right away. Typically, you do this in just one week. This allows you to learn what works and what doesn’t super fast.

    Phase 3: Evaluative research

    Once you have a working product or service, you still have to keep on testing it with your audience. UX research is never a one-off. The context of your customers is always changing, new developments follow up fast, so it’s important to stay in touch and discover how to optimize.

    There are plenty of ways to optimize your product, among them:

    • UX test / usability test: You dive into the lab with your audience to interview them. Based on some questions and scenarios they go through your site or app. They share their impressions. You learn what goes well and where they get stuck.
    • Expert review: If you have a small budget or little time, an expert review can help you out. Have a researcher take a critical look at your product. Based on experience and best practices she or he can give you great advice on how to improve.
    • Sitemap test: A good navigation and structure are essential to the success of your site or app. Are customers able to find their way? Do they get the labeling? With a sitemap test you discover how easy it is to navigate through your site or app.

    So again: UX research is a super broad concept. It means discovering deeper lying needs, frustrations, and goals to launch a new product. It means testing and optimizing your current product. And it means everything in between.

    Got any questions about how to set up your UX research? We would love to help you.