A brief introduction to User Research

A brief introduction to User Research

An introductory insight into an important facet of UX knowledge and practice.

A UX Blog on User Research, by Dr. Emmanuelle Savarit: UX, Research and Digital Strategy Director at Analyse-Concept Ltd.

Digital transformation is well understood and businesses are now moving in this direction. Companies invest in UX departments and others get support from external UX agencies. UX seems to be concentrating in Visual Design, Interaction Design, Interaction Architect, and Content Design.

Currently there is not a clear explanation of what User (UX) research is. Everyone is coming up with his or her own definition.

There are many definitions that you could find in magazines, articles and on the internet. None of which explain what user research really is.

I will start with the etymology of ‘User research’:

User: ‘a person who uses or operates something’

Research: ‘the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources to establish facts and reach new conclusions.’

Other people may call this field UX research, which means User Experience (UX) research. UX may be even more confusing, as UX tends to relate to the field of design, interaction design, visual design… Even if we work closely with UX designers, it is in my opinion quite important to make a difference between research and design.

Experience: ‘practical contact with and observation of facts or events.’

User research uses scientific (qualitative and qualitative) research methods to understand and evaluate user behaviour, needs and motivations while using a digital product.

User research provides strong evidence on how users react and might interact with a product or service.

The aim of conducting user research is to meet user needs, reduce risk and generate revenue. It can also help stakeholders make better decisions, which will result in a more successful product or service.

User research (UR) incorporates usability, human and computer interaction, social interaction, psychology, ergonomics, and anthropology.

UR is becoming a discipline on its own and is now integrated into the agile product development circle.

User research provides valuable information collected using research methods coming from ergonomics, HCI, human behaviour, cognitive sciences and human interaction. These findings are evidence-based. They help web designers, software developers, engineers, business owners, and other stakeholders create better (digital) products; that should in principle be usable by all.

Users want to have access to everything at their fingers tips, in no time, through their mobile, laptop, TV etc.


User research enables you to work agilely and improve the product through the product development.

Making changes before development is far less expensive than doing it once the product has been developed.

Doing user research will limit the risk of failure. It will increase the chance of success and meet user expectations.

The user researchers are objective; they have several research methodologies to capture evidence that will help the business, the IT and the design teams to make the right decision. User research can intervene when you want to change the design of your site or if you want to add a functionality.

When doing user research

Involving users through the product development is essential, it should happen as early as possible and through every phase of the product development (discovery, Alpha, Beta and Live).

Fig 1: Incorporating user research through product development

Which methods and when to use them:

Fig 2: Which method and when to use them

Doing user research

Incorporating user research will clarify business needs. It will identify and refine the business requirements. Take a user centric approach instead of business and the technology one. It will put the user at the centre of the product development, and make an account of who the users are. This can be done by creating personas based on real user behaviours, habits and their ability to use digital products. User research will also allow you to test concepts and make recommendations to the UX designers and stakeholders.

User research evaluates products before development, during production and before their released. It allows you to evaluate functionalities, architecture, layout, content and terminology as well as design.

By doing user research, businesses and organisation will limit risks, put users at the centre of the product development and make sure their product is easy to use by all type of users.


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