What is User Research and Why Should it be a Part of Your Process?

Last updated on July 02nd, 2024

young woman writing in notepad while viewing her laptop computer
Young woman writing in a notepad while using a laptop computer.

In my role as a researcher, I often see projects begin by immediately developing a solution before truly understanding the problem, and whom we need to solve it for. User research can help define your target audience, and provide them with an outcome that meets their needs, with less focus on “checking off” a list of project requirements.

What is User Research?

User research is a systematic approach to understanding the needs, wants, and behaviors of your users. It involves gathering data through various methods such as surveys, interviews, usability testing, and field studies. The goal of user research is to get a deep understanding of your audience so that you can design products and services that meet their needs.

Why is User Research Important?

There are many reasons why user research is important. Here are just a few:

  • It helps you understand your users. We often solve problems based on our own personal experiences, but user research gives insight into what your users are thinking. When you understand your users, you can design products and services that meet their needs and exceed their expectations. You may even uncover new opportunities that you hadn’t considered!
  • It helps you make better decisions. By understanding your users through research, you can make decisions that are based on evidence and data instead of guesswork. This can save time and money by allowing your team to only create what will be most important to your audience.
  • It helps you create better products and services. User research can help to identify problems that you didn’t know existed. It’s common to see recurring behavior patterns when testing a new product or service that can be corrected to improve the user experience.

How to Get Started with User Research

If you’re new to user research, there are a few things you can do to get started:

  • Start small. You don’t need to do a huge research project right away. Start by conducting a few simple interviews or surveys with your users. My favorite starter tools are Survey Monkey (for online surveys) and Mentimeter (for gathering feedback during presentations and meetings)
  • Define your audience. Having internal feedback is great, but you’ll get the most useful information by talking to the people that are most likely to use your product or service. You can reach these users through in-person conversations, or social media.
  • Get help from experts. If you need help with user research, there are many resources available. You can hire a user researcher, consult with a UX design agency like GIC, or take a user research course (I highly recommend this one for UX Designers).

User research is an essential part of any product development process. By understanding your users, you can create products and services that are loved by your users and successful in the marketplace.

Burgundy James is the UX Program Manager and Research Lead for Delaware’s Digital Government Program, Go DE. You can learn more about the program here.

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