UX research plays an important role in app and web design
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Published on January 20, 2015
When developing an app or designing a website, how do you determine what the user wants or needs? How do you understand the way in which they will interact with your app or navigate through your website? Rather than making assumptions, the best way to get clear feedback on user needs, along with their actual use of what you build, is through user experience research. While UX training programs help you understand the process and try to anticipate user needs, there is generally no substitute for conducting actual user experience research. Depending upon the size and scope of the project, UX research can occur anywhere from the planning and prototype stages through to working with the final product as it goes through updates and revisions as part of the normal product life cycle.
UX research helps you define your audience
The first step in designing an app or website is determining for whom you are designing. While this can start with creating personas and scenarios for some projects, if you have the time and budget, larger project benefit from talking with actual users. UX research allows you to validate your target audience, how and when they will be using what you create, and even understand their user flow.
The role of a UX researcher
UX research is a dedicated job function in many organizations with larger UX teams. The research conducted can take many forms, ranging from interviews, observations, even watching users interact in a laboratory setting. If you are part of a smaller design or development team the various research options should not discourage you from conducting UX research
Depending upon the level of feedback you are seeking, you can use third-party UX research firms to connect you with prospective users that will provide feedback. These services allow you to select the number of users, their demographics and skill level. Additionally, there are even services and apps that track users’ eyes to determine where they are focusing their attention visually, even if it differs from where they click, touch, and tap. If you have a limited budget, consider conducting your UX research using your existing or prospective customer base. You can interview them, watch them navigate through a prototype or existing app, and overall gain a better understanding of functions they use and opportunities for improvement.
While most user experience courses provide a basic foundation for conducting UX research, there are also dedicated courses in this field that allow you to study its application in greater detail.
UX research keeps you grounded
Without user feedback, designers and developers risk creating interfaces and functions that they understand well, yet fail to meet the needs of end-users and customers. Obtaining feedback from actual users avoids creating products that are difficult to use. Use UX research to ensure that you are truly providing your intended audience with what they need.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.