photo of people sitting near table holding papers

The next instalment in our UX blog series. Read part one here.

The What

To put it simply, user research gathers feedback from a target audience about a product.

It is important to differentiate that ‘Target Audience’ is not synonymous with ‘User’ and that ‘User Research’, somewhat counter-intuitively named, focuses on the target audience rather than someone who already uses the product.

This process aims to highlight characteristics about your target audience that you wanted to test or were previously unknown.  Characteristics such as pain points, needs, motivations, fears and how they use or relate to products can be discovered during user research.

The How and the When

First, determine your position.  There are many different methods when it comes to user research and picking the most appropriate will yield the best results.

For example, if you need to know more about your target audience, Task Analysis can be a useful tool to start with.  Task analysis involves learning about user goals, including what they want to do, and helps you understand the tasks they will be performing.

This could then eventually lead to Prototyping, where either a paper or series of HTML pages are created to better understand how users will react in an environment close to what you are trying to create.

The Why

A huge part of product success comes from finding the right problem to solve.  If you have a solution to a problem in mind, user research helps you prove its success whilst highlighting its usability flaws.  It forms part of hypothesis testing; pitching your product – the hypothesis – against the desired outcome – your target audience.