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User Research that Matters: Best Practices and Methodologies

3 Mins read

User research is an important and integral step in the design and development process. With the recent technological advancements, complexities have increased and the interface now has a direct impact on how effective the interaction can be. 

Let’s go through some of the best practices for user research, with a focus on why these are important and when these should be used. We will also discuss methodologies — including interviews, contextual inquiry, surveys — for conducting this research effectively.

The Eminence of User Research

Many design decisions are made based on data. These decisions can have a big impact on the final product, so deeper research is a prerequisite. 

User research approaches vary, based on specific business needs. The best possible user research performed is usually a hybrid model of user interviews, contextual inquiry, focus groups, usability testing, and surveys. In short, a good combination of quantitative as well as qualitative research. 

Let’s take the example of a connected mobile app designed for Tata Nexon EV to understand the importance of user research. At the time, the concept of EV was fairly new in the country. It was challenging to introduce the product in the market. And it was equally difficult to introduce a connected vehicle app to such a wide range of audiences.

Since the Indian market is evolving rapidly, car buyers’ decision-making parameters are changing rapidly. They nowadays go beyond luxury, considering things like a green future, safety, security, usability, and delight when making a purchasing decision. 

With the Nexon EV, Tata Motors planned to cover a wide range, of their potential buyers. Be it a business class person looking for a smart option of a daily commute vehicle, or a tech naive looking for the convenience of drive in the city; Nexon EV appealed to all of them.

Understanding these varied users, their conscious and subconscious needs, their hopes & aspirations, and their fears were going to build the foundation of the seamless design experience envisioned for the users.

User research was conducted in mature markets such as the US and Europe, and in India with EV and non-EV users. We assessed the whole automotive market in India as well to understand the user’s necessity and expectations. This process was not easy, yet crucial.

In the end, it was an app that was going to enable users to control key car functions remotely, safely, securely in the most convenient way. The company’s goal was to design a universally understandable language that is easy to understand by a novice and even a tech-savvy person. A predominantly pictorial language was used with an interface that reflected familiar dashboards of car interiors. The idea was to transform the physical experience of the car into a virtual platform.

Some crucial user insights changed the course of the design. e.g. – the users were happy and satisfied with mere 22 features in place of the 50+ suggested by the brand. 

User Research That Matters

With extensive user research and thorough analysis, you can mold your product to create the maximum impact on your users. 

Here are a few things to consider when performing user research to gather data that will inform exceptional design solutions. 

User Interviews

User interviews are a crucial part of User Research where you can gain access to vital user data firsthand. To see the complete picture of your user’s mindset, interacting with them is the best way to make progress. It also helps you guide future site advancement by highlighting user needs through improved comprehension. 

When you have a wide range of audience, user interviews become much more compelling as it helps you to make a better decision for your designs. 

Contextual Inquiry

Often our environment influences a lot of our choices, habits, and mentality. Thus, a contextual inquiry is preferred the most to analyze users’ behavior and context. This is more like a learning process than testing. 

Contextual inquiry is a qualitative user research method adopted by most UX design companies to examine and understand their users. It consists of visiting several users on-site, observing them carry out their tasks, and analyzing the data. 

Usability Testing

It is noticed that users often say something else but their actions showcase completely different behavior. UX design agencies have a cumulative experience in human factors and psychology that can help them to assess different user behaviors in distinctive situations. 

Usability testing is a qualitative research method that helps in discovering and analyzing this user behavior. This technique helps experts to optimize the experience of their products. 

With a dialogue between actual users and the highly trained interviewers, one can identify stumbling blocks in the flow and navigation, and possible points of confusion.

By incorporating these methods and practices, UX design companies have successfully created products that have been loved and appreciated by their users. For these projects, multiple teams of designers, developers, and researchers came together and worked with a mutual understanding to achieve the most commendable results.