UX research methods -cover

A Guide to Popular UX Research Methods and Techniques

Design, Product
12 min
Mar 19, 2024

Understanding users is the foundation of great design. User experience research provides insights into users’ needs, behaviors, and motivations to guide the design of intuitive, engaging user experiences. This article explores popular types of UX research that unearth actionable data to create user-centered products.

What Are UX Research Methods?

You know when you come across an app that does its job really well and is also easy and enjoyable to use? That’s good UX. Like how it feels effortless to get an Uber or smoothly stream shows on Netflix. That doesn’t happen by accident.

UX research methodologies help understand users to make products and services that work better for them. UX research talks directly to users to dig into their thinking. You want to capture how they feel, what they need, where things get confusing, and ideas that get them excited.

Doing the UX research early prevents expensive mistakes down the road after launching solutions that miss the mark because you made wrong assumptions or just guessed without evidence.

Benefits of Conducting UX Research

What’s so valuable about UX research techniques anyway? Well, delving into user insights paves the way to create exceptional digital products and services. Pushing out an app or website is easy these days, but research is critical to crafting one that meets user needs.

Key project benefits from committing to UX research include:

Benefits of Conducting UX Research

  • Identifying target user needs. Unlike guessing, User research tools uncover who your core users are and what they’re really after. These qualitative insights reveal untapped market opportunities and unique solutions.
  • Boosting ease of use. Frustrated users quickly leave when interfaces are confusing or key features seem hidden. UX research shows confusing areas to address — refining flows and interfaces for smooth navigation. The more intuitive your product, the less user effort… and the more they’ll appreciate it.
  • Lowering development costs. Money matters. Applying UX research early when ideating reveals flawed assumptions and needed change before spending more. Identifying real user issues is far cheaper.

Thus, skipping UX research leaves you wandering blind. With these benefits in mind, let’s proceed with the main UX research methods.

Types of User Research Methods

Understanding users takes effort, but thankfully, you’ve got loads of useful research tools to discover what truly drives people. Let us break down the most popular user research techniques that provide unique pieces of the user puzzle.

User Interviews

Interviews let you pick users’ brains through personal conversation. During this UX research method, you listen closely as users share experiences, frustrations, and wishes -— real-deal qualitative intel. Hearing user stories firsthand builds serious empathy while exposing why people act as they do.

This way, you learn about barriers around critical tasks, how new ideas might help or hinder, and discover hidden assumptions people have about your product domain.


Surveys allow researchers to gather input from a large, diverse pool of respondents. While interviews provide qualitative depth with a few individuals, surveys convey the quantitative breadth of priority areas and reactions across wider audiences.

Well-designed online surveys present a mix of multiple choice, rating, rank order, and open-ended questions to measure preferences, frustrations, feature usage trends, and reactions to early concepts.

Research teams leverage surveys to:

  • Establish adoption or usage metrics across core tasks and workflows before and after significant changes to benchmark and monitor impact over time
  • Quantify needs, behaviors, and requirements ranked by order of importance across user groups and segments
  • Filter responses by attributes like location, role, industry, age, or income level to spotlight different needs per user subgroup
  • Rapidly test ideas, concepts, or pricing models at scale by alternating question phrasing or parameters displayed between randomly distributed respondents

Online survey distribution can reach a wide net through channels like website popups, email campaigns, and social media ads targeted at corresponding demographics. This convenience can yield hundreds or even thousands of submissions, far surpassing the response capacity of individual interviews or small usability studies.

Usability Testing

Usability testing means letting users take your product for a spin while monitoring them navigate main activities and noting reactions. During testing, you can get an eyewitness view into confusing flows, misleading labels, or gaps between your vision and reality. You can assess whether the UI logic aligns with user expectations by having them think aloud while completing typical tasks.

Repeated usability testing shows clear ways to simplify workflows, improve self-service, and make key functions easier to find. You can diagnose where information or next steps feel buried. Testing early alerts teams to usability issues to address before lots of engineering.

The feedback helps teams make smarter designs using simpler language, better signposting, and interfaces matching how users expect products to work.

Card Sorting

Card sorting is like a concept association game. You ask participants to organize topics that feel related into groups. Then you get them to label each group.

Watching people sort through the cards shows how their brain naturally connects ideas and information. What groupings and relationships seem instinctive to them?

These insights then help you:

  • UX design website navigation and menus so people quickly find content
  • Structure product features and functions in an intuitive way
  • Map workflows that match users’ mental models

If your information architecture doesn’t match how people instinctively expect topics to be grouped, it will feel confusing. Users will struggle to locate what they need. Card sorting helps prevent that by revealing how target users link concepts. It makes sure products feel familiar.

A/B Testing

Quick serial product experiments drive evolution through continual learning. During A/B testing, you display alternative interfaces or interactions to random visitors and monitor metrics across experiences. Easy drag-and-drop tools now let you visually build and test landing pages, sign-up flows, email layouts, and much more by seeing which option better converts visitors. Immediate user feedback helps double down on what works while phasing out lower performers.

Common examples of A/B tests include:

  • Variations of a homepage, email, or page layout
  • Different CTAs, headlines, or visuals
  • Reordering form fields or changing defaults

Together, the tools provide hard evidence for instilling user needs within any features, interfaces, and solutions before you ever code a line.

When to Use Which User Experience Research Methods

With various UX research tools available, let’s discuss picking the right one for a given project based on factors like your key questions and resources.

For example, if exploring reasons for abandoned shopping carts before purchase, what research options seem aligned? Are you testing ideas to improve conversion rates? Needing statistics confirming issues across user segments? Wanting vivid insights into user thinking? Identifying such goals guides effective method matching.

Important inputs for matching research tools include the following.

When to Use Which User Experience Research Methods

Research Goals

First of all, clarify the core questions seeking answers to direct your methodology. Quantitative efforts provide numerical evidence supporting assumptions. Qualitative work offers richer explanations behind user decisions. Ensure the techniques fit your desired measurement.

Project Stage

Certain tools add more value at specific project phases. Discovery research, like interviews and workshops, provides breakthroughs when initially scoping directions. As concepts develop, quick user tests reveal weaker areas earlier to refine.

Available Resources

It’s also important to think about what method is realistic for your timeline and budget. Some techniques require a lot of planning — like finding people to interview, scheduling, thanking them for their time, and going through all the information they give you.

A small project done alone might work better with faster options for getting user feedback. Bigger companies can set up complicated labs to track eye movements.

Comparing Common Research Methods

Let’s review a framework outlining suitable UX research methods from early inspiration through ongoing product optimization.

Research methodBest forKey outputsAverage time


InterviewsUnderstanding rich opinions, context, and behaviorsCompelling qualitative stories, user quotes, audio/video, empathy6 hours to 2 weeks per interview$$$
SurveysQuantifying attitudes, preferences, and statsCharts, trends, and validation data1 day to 2 weeks$
Card sortingGrouping concepts, grasping IA expectationsAffinity maps, clustering models, and similarity data1 day prep + 1 week facilitation$
Usability testingIdentifying ease-of-use issuesExplicit usage problems, recordings, and satisfaction metrics1 day to 1 week per test round$$
A/B testingOptimizing and comparing design optionsStatistical significance in engagement metrics1 week to 1 month per test cycle$

With the available techniques in mind, first ask:

  • What is my core question?
  • What project phase am I in?
  • Who can provide user input?

The aim isn’t a specific tool, but the problem it illuminates. Once the quest is clear, the choice tends to reveal itself. Consider blending user research methods for the best results.

Analyzing and Applying Research Findings

When facing a mountain of qualitative feedback and quantitative metrics, analysis can feel daunting. Where to start? Begin by searching for overarching themes that describe user behaviors. Watch for surprising revelations that run counter to your original assumptions.

Also, identify compelling quotes supporting key insights. Use models to detect usage trends in analytics. Frame core discoveries by creating:

Analyzing and Applying Research Findings

  • Highlight reels. Slice lengthy recordings into short clips, spotlighting reactions that represent broader sentiments. Show cross-functional teams direct feedback soundbites regarding valuable likes and urgent friction points.
  • User personas. Synthesize attributes of attitudinal segments emerging from the research to characterize differentiated mindsets. Give various archetypes names, backgrounds, photos, and distinguishable motivations.
  • Design guidelines. Translate findings into digestible recommendations addressing discovered needs through adjusted site flows or features that resolve confusion. Then, you can list actionable best practices to enhance self-service options around areas triggering frustration. Focus suggestions on directly improving the ease and accessibility of services based directly on user feedback.

Consistent commitment to seeking truths within target audience feedback transforms products preferred by the customers they serve.


User experience research gets you out of your own heads as designers so you can view your work through the fresh eyes of those who matter most — the customers who will use and benefit from your creation. UX research fosters user-centered designs grounded in target users’ true motivations, contexts, attitudes, and behaviors.

Applying a combination of proven UX methodologies at strategic points enables you to efficiently unlock insights to delight users and achieve business goals through differentiated user experiences worth coming back to again and again.

by Ivan Klyzhenko
UX Startup Advisor, Uitop


Why should we care about UX research in the first place?

UX research should be the core of great design. Talking directly with users from the early stages provides clarity that guides smarter solutions tailored to exactly what people need. This boosts adoption while saving money and headaches down the road after launching something users don’t understand or want.

What kind of time commitment is realistic?

Depends on the technique, but a few solid hours give insights that inspire many design decisions. Quick online surveys or remote usability tests are most efficient for feedback. Contextual inquiries provide a deeper understanding from observing behaviors in real environments. But even short interviews can help.

What does the analysis of research data look like?

Researchers look for overarching themes about behaviors and motivations within recordings, notes, metrics, and transcripts. They create portraits of key user types, map journeys to spot pain points, craft guidelines addressing needs, and distill compelling clips showing reactions firsthand.

What metrics best connect UX research insights to broader business results?

Beyond project-specific UX metrics, trace the data pipeline to targets correlating research-informed solutions over time with key performance indicators valued by executives. Show reduced case escalations after self-service enhancements. Overlay e-commerce redesigns on conversion lift. Highlight increased customer spend retention thanks to human-centered account management revamps informed directly by client feedback. Quantify enterprise gains from UX maturity.

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