In this journal entry we attempt to explain the fundamentals of UX and UI research and why you should consider exploring this for your website (regardless if it’s a new project or an existing established site).
Let’s start at the beginning – UX/UI what the hell is that?
U = User = Someone using or effected by your website
X = Experience = Their experience of using your website
I = Interface = What your user interacts with on your website
UX/UI research is the systematic investigation of user behaviour in order to gather insights into their needs and wants, then employing those insights whilst utilising best practice to enhance the design process of the end product or service offering.
The research encompasses a variety of investigative methods and the main goal of this research is to inform the design process from the perspective of the end user. This research has many moving parts and the type of research conducted is somewhat dictated by the current status of any given project, for example a ‘yet to be designed website’ Vs ‘an established and already live website’.
How does it work?
Ideally you will need a facilitator (UX/UX strategist) like ourselves. Think of this person as a mediator between you (the business), your website user (client or customer) and your website designer/developer.
The role is to facilitate conversation, conduct user/behavioural/attitudinal research and of course to suggest best practice.
We for example would typically start with a client workshop – this can take 4-6 hours and we discuss a myriad of subjects such as:
- Creating an profile or avatar of your user/customer
- The overall aims and objectives of the website
- Who are your competitors
- Your current challenges
- What does success look like to you
- Barriers to entry, SWOT analysis, competitor analysis
Once there is a greater understanding of you, your business and and your goals this helps ensure we get off on the right foot – no one knows your business better than you, the facilitator takes this knowledge onto the next phase.
Competitor and/or sector research
While not strictly part of UX and UI research it would be remiss not to look at what your key competitors are doing (good and bad). Looking at best-in-class is also not necessarily something to aim for, to take a Steve Jobs quote “You can’t look at the competition and say you’re going to do it better. You have to look at the competition and say you’re going to do it differently”.
This is the observational study of your users’ behaviour through techniques such as ethnographic studies, A/B testing and quantitative data from tools such as Google Analytics and HotJar.
Margaret Mead the renowned American anthropologist once said, “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.”
Behavioural research removes what people ‘say’ they do and gives us real-time quantitative data of what the ‘actually’ do.
Quantitative data is data that can be counted or measured in numerical values. Using the aforementioned tools and techniques gives us hard facts to what users are doing Vs what we they say or we want them to do.
This is the gathering of qualitative insights into the user’s thoughts, needs, attitudes, and motivations when using your website, service or product. Attitudinal research can be either qualitative or quantitative depending on the approach taken.
To ensure we get the correct balance we would typically utilise interviews, focus groups and setting specific tasks to designated user groups.
One of the most important factors for attitudinal research is asking the right questions to the right group of people. Make sure your questions are clear, open-ended, and focused on the topics you’re researching..
Also ensure you include the right amount and balance of people. For example; a good focus group should include 4 – 8 users (large enough to include a variety of perspectives, but small enough so everyone has a chance to speak).
Using both methods of research will give the most rounded picture of your users and help us proceed to the next step.
Taking our competitor analysis (while keeping the Steve Jobs quote in mind) we marry this with current trends and best practice.
A large part of best practice is ensuring industry and accessibility standards are being adhered to and believe it or not – sustainability in websites – the hybrid blend of environmental conservation and performance-based web standards.
So, what now?
Ok, so you have done your comprehensive research:
- Facilitating conversation through workshops
- Competitor research and analysis
- Behavioural and attitudinal research
- Best practice
Now the emphasis or focus switches to UI – we take our learnings and apply this by designing the look, feel, and interactivity of your digital product.
Most agencies will use design tools such as Figma, Sketch or Adobe Xd to develop and design interactive prototypes that will map out your user’s journey and experience.
What do I end up with?
Ultimately, if you have used a facilitator (UX/UI strategist) at the end of the process you should have a detailed report/presentation on the initial research and its findings and how these findings have influenced the end-result ‘a well conceived user-interface that will engage a meaningful user-experience’.
What to learn more about UX/UI and how it can help you? Feel free to contact us at any time.