IxD301 – User Research

IxD301 – User Research


User research provides an essential foundation for design strategy. It helps you to create an optimal product for users. Most importantly, you’ll have the data to back your strategy and design decisions.

User research also helps you to identify early adopters who would use your product. To launch your first version of a product, you must find people who would want to buy and use it. User research helps you to discover people who can give you valuable contextual feedback on your product.

Some more reasons why you shouldn’t skip your research…

  • enables you to create designs that are valuable to users and efficient to use
  • ensures users can complete their tasks without making errors
  • decreases the learning curve for your product by making it easy to learn and use
  • helps you to understand the return on investment (ROI) for UX design
  • lets you identify early adopters
  • validates your hypotheses
  • enables you to learn about competitors’ products

If your goal is to create a top-notch user experience for your product, doing user research is just as important as designing your product’s visual identity and interactions. It doesn’t matter how great your product or site looks or how seamless its interactions are, if people are not able to perform their desired tasks efficiently.

Unfortunately, user research does not always get its due attention. Even though user research is necessary to identify problems and establish the facts you need to design optimal solutions, it’s still sometimes difficult to convince clients to include research as a separate effort in the Scope of Work. Plus, it’s often the first activity that gets removed from a design effort when a team faces a time crunch or budgetary constraints.

It is a tragedy that the software industry is not cognizant of the value of UX research in devising brilliant, unique solutions to the problems we confront in product design. In my opinion, UX research is no longer optional. We must conduct UX research to ensure seamless, valuable user experiences or submit to inevitable product failure.

How should I begin researching?

Some common tools that UX researchers use include tools for usability testing, user interviews, surveys, card sorting, tree testing, and first-click testing. A UX research tool stack may also include solutions for recruiting participants, documenting research, and transcribing interviews.

For my user research, I decided to perform both a formal interview of 3 of my family members and I also created a short survey, which I asked my younger sister to get her friends to complete. They are all around 16/17 and all studying for their GCSEs and AS levels.

The Interviews…

My aunt Pauline, Home-Ec teacher, required to know the basics of the periodic table for her AS/A-Level class.

Pauline was able to tell me that her students are required to know about certain minerals that appear on the periodic table. They are required to know about bonds and certain purposes of the minerals. Pauline said that this is something that majority of her students struggle with the most, when completely homework and tasks. This is because science mightn’t be their main interest or they may have forgotten everything they’ve learnt from GCSE.   She told me that it would be great if there was a simple tool which they could use which would only show them relevant material, filtering out all of the details they do not require, therefore maintaining their focus.

My little brother, Christy, currently in year 11, studying for his GCSEs. Christy is completing double award science, and if I’m very honest, isn’t the biggest fan of school. 

I began by speaking to Christy about his understanding of the periodic table. He told me he was first shown it in third year. Although he had seen it before, he had no idea what it was for. I asked him for three words to describe his understanding of the Periodic table… His response, “Boring, hard and confusing”. Completely what I expected from a 15 year old boy. I asked him what could be done to change his attitude towards learning about the elements. He said that all of his notes have too much reading in it. From this I can take away that he would work far better from a visual point of learning. I think that visual learners, including myself, were always at a disadvantage when it came to subjects like science, as there would be huge blocks of information handed to us, whereas during a science test, it could require a one word answer, or something to make you think more practically.

My little sister, Shauna. 17 years old, after completing her GCSE in double award science and currently studying Home-Economics for AS. 

Shauna, like myself in school is the girl who has to create perfect revision notes before every exam. I asked her why she felt the need to do this. Her reply was, because it cuts out a lot of information I don’t need and is better organised than our notes from school. I asked her how long it takes her to make her notes. She said, A LONG TIME.

I want to take the effort of having to make breakdown notes, as it wastes time, time when you could be focused on learning the content. Shauna also agreed from a HE students perspective, that an app with relevant material would really assist her during her homework and tasks.


Creating a survey….

Surveys are used to gather or gain knowledge in fields such as social research and demography. Survey research is often used to assess thoughts, opinions and feelings. Surveys can be specific and limited, or they can have more global, widespread goals. Surveys can help gauge the representativeness of individual views and experiences. When done well, surveys provide hard numbers on people’s opinions and behaviours that can be used to make important decisions.

7 Steps to Design the Perfect Survey
  1. Establish the goals of the survey and be focused. …
  2. Know *exactly* how you plan to use the data. …
  3. Map out the survey before coding it. …
  4. Gather feedback from the relevant team members. …
  5. Jump into the survey software. …
  6. Test, test, test. …
  7. Send out to a small group first and check the data.

I decided to design my survey using survey monkey. It was very easy to use, however I did find some difficulty when distributing the survey to the girls. Their answers did not come through first time, however I got this resolved.



The information I got back was very useful and I gathered a good idea of people’s opinions on the periodic table, which was my aim. The only thing I could have improved on was to include more specific questions, which would have gave me more of an insight to what content they want on the app. I now feel that I have enough user research to help me get started on planning the app.

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