User Research Methods and Best Practices
Designing a product or service cannot commence without first understanding what users want or need. Gaining the skills and knowledge required to perform best practice user research, offers an ability to obtain first-hand knowledge of a targeted user group in order to produce an optimal product that is truly relevant and subsequently, outperforming of its competitors’.
This seven week course delivered by the Interaction Design Foundation examines the most essential qualitative user research methods. It explores how to plan and conduct user research, how to analyze the results of research, and how to best communicate findings to stakeholders through user journey maps, personas and workshops.
Certification demonstrates an understanding of how to adopt user research methods, into everyday work processes, to inspire design, evaluate solutions, and to measure impact.
Why Do User Research And How To Fit User Research Into Your Everyday Work
This module defines what user research actually is and examines how user research can be used in a design process. It identifies and explores three key reasons for doing user research: to create designs that are truly relevant to users, to create designs that are easy and pleasurable to use, and to understand the return on investment (ROI) of user experience (UX) design. Topics covered include:
- User Research: What It is and Why You Should do It
- When to do User Research
- How to Involve Stakeholders in Your User Research
- Return on Investment of User Research
The Basics Of Qualitative User Research
There are many valid ways in which to conduct qualitative user research, this module explores ways in which to evaluate the different alternatives to ensure the conducted research is performed at the highest quality. It examines the fundamentals of planning a user research project and how to ensure that the user research is ethical and adheres to best practice. Topics covered include:
- The Basics of Recruiting Users for Usability Testing
- Planning a User Research Project
- Best Practices for Qualitative User Research
- Conducting Ethical User Research
Usability testing is one of the most commonly used user research techniques, it is a particularly great method for ensuring designs are easy to use. This module is a study of planning a usability test, moderating a usability test, measuring usability test metrics and reporting the results of usability tests. It explores different types of usability tests and how to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of high-fidelity and low-fidelity testing. Topics covered include:
- Introduction to Usability Testing Methods and Metrics
- Planning a Usability Test
- Running a Usability Test
- Reporting on the Results of a Usability Test
Semi-Structured Qualitative Interviews
User interviews are conducted in many types of research projects, either alone or combined with other methods. Interviews are conducted when it is necessary to gain an understanding of the users’ experiences from their own points of view.
This module covers how to determine the relative merits of conducting user interviews, how to best prepare for a user interview, how to ask the correct questions, how to moderate user interviews, and how to perform a thematic analysis of user interviews. Topics covered include:
- Pros and Cons of Conducting User Interviews
- How to Prepare for a User Interview and Ask the Right Questions
- How to Moderate User Interviews
- How to Do a Thematic Analysis of User Interviews
A specific interview method, Contextual Inquiry, combines interviews and observations. Contextual Inquiry is an excellent method to gain insight into work processes and users within their natural settings. The ability, enabled by contextual inquiry, to observe and question users while they work in their own environment provides a number of opportunities for immersion:
- being able to watch 'normal' user behaviour first hand, coupled with the ability to ask questions, puts observations in context
- as a participant in the 'master and apprentice' role playing, that CI replicates, observers may actually perform some tasks to enhance their understanding and therefore further validate the research findings
- being present within the natural setting can help identify environmental or cultural issues that would not otherwise be evident
- and the strategically casual but focused conversations can give voice to an individual's concern that would not otherwise surface through other methods of research.
This module explores when it is appropriate to use a Contextual Inquiry and the steps required to execute a successful Contextual Inquiry. Topics covered include:
- Introduction to Contextual Inquiry
- Planning a Contextual Inquiry
- Running a Contextual Inquiry
- Analyzing a Contextual Inquiry
Remembering how we perform practical tasks and other everyday activities without actually doing them is difficult. Therefore, to really understand how users do something, it’s much more effective to observe them doing it rather than ask them to explain how they do it.
User Observations may be carried out on their or form part of a user test, interview, or contextual inquiry. When used on their own, user observations are placed towards the more natural setting. This module examines when User Observations are particularly useful, and how User Observations can be combined with other methods such as interviews and tests. Topics covered include:
- Introduction to Observational Methods
- Planning an Observational Study
- Running an Observational Study
- Analyzing an Observational Study
How To Make Your Research Matter
Having completed a User Research project, it is critical to carefully consider how to best communicate the research findings with the project's key stakeholders. How results are communicated is determined by the level of empathy sought to be evoked and the depth of understanding of user needs required to be absorbed by the audience.
A simple list or static report of research findings is not immersive enough to trigger any type of empathy, visualizing results is far more effective. There are three types of information visualizations that can be used to communicate the results from qualitative user research to project stakeholders - Affinity Diagrams, Empathy Maps and User Journey Maps. Empathy maps give the audience a great overview of four relevant areas of user understanding: what people say, do, think, and feel. These three visualizations can be utilised in unison to elicit a deeper feeling of empathy.
Presenting insights about the social and cultural backgrounds of users, their psychological traits, their frustrations, and their goals through Personas helps develop a broad knowledge of the users. Engaging Personas seek to make a user group come alive. A balance between research data and fictional details within Personas ensures credibility and applicability.
Workshops are an effective manner to provide stakeholders ownership of the user research and to move forward from insights to design ideas. Workshop exercises from the design thinking process include: Download learning; Share inspiring stories; Find Themes; Create Insight Statements; and How might we.
Ultimately, analysing the results of research and presenting the insights gained from findings to project stakeholders well is critical to pivot successfully from discovery to solutions mode. Topics covered include:
- How to Visualize Your Qualitative User Research Results for Maximum Impact
- Creating Personas from User Research Results
- Workshops to Establish Empathy and Understanding from User Research Results
About the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF)
The appropriate use of user experience (UX) design offers a greater chance of product success compared to products developed without the application of UX design principles. The Interaction Design Foundation (IDF) is a global organisation sharing and growing knowledge in the field of UX Design. IDF is at the forefront of education in areas of UI Design, Human Computer Interaction, Service Design, Customer Experience and Organisational Design Thinking.
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