Conducting user research is difficult — but when moving into uncharted territory – a new market, product tier or demographic, to name just a few things – it’s vital. Here are a few points we keep in mind at Edgar Allan to help us understand how to approach researching users.
1. Identify what you need to know about your users.
Before you can start answering questions, you first need to decide what your questions even are and what your goal for asking them will be. When conducting audience research, both qualitative and quantitative research methods have a role to play, as they offer different perspectives. By understanding the type of answers each of these approaches provides, you can pick the correct one to better understand the audience we are designing for.
While quantitative methods (analytics, A/B testing, surveys, etc.) can give us information on what is happening when users visit a website and an idea of the questions we need to be asking, qualitative methods (interviews, usability testing, diary studies, etc.) help us understand why something is happening by allowing us to humanize those numbers with real-life stories from users. Great research is a marriage of both.
2. Assess how much access you have to users.
User research is a fantastic tool — when you have access to users. But often, we don’t have that privilege. Whether it’s because there might not yet be an existing user base, or because, for whatever reason, we can’t speak to users directly, getting access to users can sometimes be tricky.
This turns into a great opportunity to put our creative minds to work and adapt: Maybe instead we’ll need to talk to people in customer-facing roles who talk to users on a daily basis, or analyze as much user data as we can about them from web analytics. Maybe we need to do some desk research to hear the voice of the customer out in the wild? By understanding the kind of access, if any, we have to users to conduct research, we can better determine how to conduct our audience research.
3. Understand where you are in the design process.
Understanding users’ needs is important throughout the entire design process, but the stage we’re in will require us to learn different things from them and use different methods to get those answers.
Discovery: We want to learn about the audience and our stakeholders to better understand the problem at hand.
Exploration: We need to understand how to better meet our users' needs and ensure we have a strong foundation for the design work that’s ahead.
Testing: We need to see users interacting with our designs to test the choices we’ve made and make adjustments along the way.
Listening: We need to understand and analyze how successful (or not) we were in meeting users' needs with our designs to find new issues or opportunities.
Defining, understanding, and prioritizing user needs is key to any successful digital experience. Good design is founded on a good understanding of the people for whom we are designing. Taking a design approach to audience research allows us to improve our designs by addressing pain points and uncovering new opportunities. Remember, our goal is to deliver consistently valuable experiences that both help and delight our users.
Audience research is just one of the ways Edgar Allan can ensure your digital experience is audience-appropriate. Check out our blog to learn more about our perspective on this topic, content, Webflow, and more.