How and When to Conduct User Experience Research

We rely on our pasts to shape our futures as a species. We experience a wide range of emotions as we go through the environment, from shock at a rapid shift to fear of the unknown to wonder at greatness. There is no separation between the human situation and the personal development that results from engagement with the world.

Don Horman, author of the best-seller “The Design of Everyday Things,” is credited with popularising the term “user experience” (UX) in the 1990s. In his view, design serves as a channel of interaction between the creator and the recipient of software. Therefore, the way our product is presented affects users’ impressions of it and their overall experience.

The goal of user experience (UX) design is to put the user’s needs first, and to create an environment that makes the client feel and act in a certain manner. User experience design stands in sharp contrast to methodologies that put performance and utility first.

The advent of the smartphone is a great example of how two ecosystems can be functionally identical, yet have a unique vibe. Android and iOS both offer a great user experience, but there is something about each one that makes it stand out. This is difficult to put into words, but it is definitely something that users notice.

It could be easy to assume that UX is only about how a product looks or how easy it is to use. While this is partially true, UX is much more than that. Understanding the emotions we want to evoke in our consumers and intentionally crafting environments that foster those emotions is essential.

The aim of many video games is to make the player feel scared, and this is something that the designers take into account when creating the game. They may use a number of methods to create a feeling of unease and tension in the player, such as a confusing interface, a lack of clear instructions, or dim lighting.

However, the user may instead feel rage and annoyance if the game’s menu is difficult to use, if the game’s performance is poor, or if there are bugs that break the player’s immersion in the game’s environment. Horman emphasizes that this is the case, explaining that UX design is achieved when our goals and the user’s experience with the product are in harmony.

That begs the question: what do people really want?

At best, the horror game illustration is an exception to the rule. Users are prone to satisficing, as put out by Steven Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think. That is to say, we have a natural preference for things that make us happy or alleviate our pain.

Unless we are driven by obstacles (such as those in a game), we usually choose whatever would make our daily lives simpler, and then we add good characteristics to our decision after the fact.

One example of this is the development of operating systems over time. In recent updates, both Windows and iOS have become smaller and simpler to use. A user-friendly interface and automated solutions hide the system’s “deep workings.

Given the importance of UX in people’s decision-making, it has become linked with qualities like friendliness and simplicity. The challenge then becomes how we can determine which design decisions will really help us to achieve these targets.

Can emotion be accurately assessed?

It is one thing to have an idea of how others should feel, but it is quite another to see how they actually respond to certain stimuli. Scientists spent the whole of the 20th century arguing with each other in an attempt to quantify human behavior and opinion.

Many designers rely on trial and error; they create something with the intention of seeing how it is received by users, and then adjust accordingly. Two issues arise from this method: first, it can be very time-consuming; and second, there is no guarantee that the end result will be successful.

It’s important to collect feedback after a change is implemented, yet first reactions are often deceptive. You won’t know how people responded to the change, or if they even noticed it, until the dust settles.

However, reversing a decision made during the design phase can be expensive. As a result, the designer may have little choice but to either continue or retrace at additional expense.

While ingenuity and trial and error are inevitable, the design team may benefit from prior planning and information collecting. In the same way that preliminary interviews provide insights into the client’s needs, UX research techniques may shed light on the most effective strategy for designing the user interface.

Statistical techniques

Based on the nature of the data collected and the subsequent analysis, we may classify UX research techniques into two major groups: quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative techniques involve observing how users interact and utilizing numbers to draw conclusions about their emotional state. Qualitative techniques, on the other hand, focus on understanding the why behind user behavior.

Quantitative approaches to measuring user satisfaction include surveys, in which users are asked to rate their satisfaction with various features of a product. This method is known as self-report, as it relies on an individual’s subjective assessment and numerical rating of their own emotional state.

There are many problems associated with self-reported data, one of which is the potential for cognitive bias. It is well-established that participants may be influenced by factors such as social pressure, the desire to assist, and the fear of unjustly evaluating others.

Direct observation of behavior is an alternative method to self-report. A user’s digital footprint provides insightful insight into their experience with a product. You may track metrics like the number of new users, the length of time a site has been up, the average number of daily visitors, and more to determine which layout is most successful.

Engagement is a perfect example of this method in action. Users spend more time with programs and services they love using, so you might create many user interfaces (UIs) and conduct a split-test to see which one receives the most time per user.

Approaches based on qualitative analysis

Quantitative approaches are excellent for collecting large volumes of data quickly, but they often lack in detail. The fact that consumers are spending more time in condition A than in condition B is notable, but why is this the case? Further research is needed in order to establish why this is the case.

It is important to have a system in place that allows us to investigate the motivations behind people’s emotions, in order to provide answers to questions about those emotions. For the last two centuries, philosophers have been reminding us that it is very difficult to quantify emotions and experiences using numbers.

If you want to explore the reasons behind someone’s preferences, you could use a qualitative method. This could involve collecting data like interviews and written comments (natural language), which could give you a deeper understanding of the influencing factors.

These three qualitative approaches are the most often used:

Interviews and Focus groups: where feedback is solicited by having respondents fill out a form.

In-Depth conversations: where you sit down with the user and conduct an interview, eliciting their thoughts and feelings by asking them pointed questions.

Study group: In-person interviews are conducted with a large group via a free-flowing discussion. With the use of moderating questions, the interviewer acts as a moderator to facilitate conversation among the users and record their responses.

Qualitative approaches can provide a more complete understanding of a user’s experience, but they have some drawbacks. For example, qualitative approaches are more time-consuming and require more detailed information, making them more suited to smaller samples.

However, because the process relies heavily on our intuition, it is far more difficult to study. We have a meeting where we go through the transcripts and talk about how to approach the design in light of the feedback we received.

Using quantitative techniques, such as Natural Language Processing, to examine qualitative data yields quantitative results.

Taking a unified approach

It is possible to hold both of these perspectives; they are not incompatible. Scientists have long been aware that combining quantitative and qualitative methods gives a more complete understanding of the user than either method alone.

Researchers may utilise their findings to plot out a course for improving the user experience (UX) via UX design.

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