At OVO, we practice a user-centred-design approach. Our user research practice has grown fast in the last few years, and is now an integral part of our product development. Given it’s an unfamiliar discipline to some, in this blog, I’m going to answer some of the common questions about user research.
What is user research?
User research is the scientific, and systematic study of human behaviours in order to make better informed decisions with more certainty. Our ultimate goal is to make sure we’re addressing real customer problems and needs.
What are the differences between qualitative and quantitative research?
User research can generally be split into two categories: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative research is about understanding the Why — what are the reasons behind people’s behaviours? Whereas quantitative research focuses on the What — what do people do?
Qualitative research is explorative. Through conducting interviews and making observations, we can understand the problem space, and people’s context, needs, motivations, and barriers. This type of research enables in-depth understanding of the subject matter, and helps us formulate hypotheses.
Quantitative research is evaluative. It’s used to gauge the size of a problem, test hypotheses, and detect differences in preferences. This type of research helps us establish generalisable facts.
Normally, qualitative comes before quantitative, but it’s not a linear process. For example, quantitative data can also help identify problems to be solved if we have the right measures. It comes down to researchers to decide the best-suited research methods for a given context.
How is user research different from market research?
User research and market research can often be confused due to the similarity between the two disciplines. And it’s understandable, they are similar in their data collection methods and the types of data collected, i.e. interviews, diary studies, and surveys.
However, these two disciplines serve different goals and answer different questions. We can harness the power of both once we have a strong understanding of the relative strengths of each.
The key differences between user research and market research lie in the following areas:
What does good user research look like?
It’s a tricky thing to define. In my experience, it comes back to why we are doing user research in the first place. There are three questions I always ask myself to help assess the quality of my research:
- Is our research aligned with our business goals?
To ensure our research is asking the right questions, I always check that our research goals are aligned to the team’s wider objectives, often business goals, otherwise it will have limited impacts. This alignment is often achieved via workshops with the team, and one-to-one conversions with stakeholders.
- Is the team clearer on the direction we need to take?
A good research study should add clarity to the product team — it should help them move from not knowing where to focus, to clearly defining the problem statement and direction they should take.
- Does our research help to de-risk product decisions?
When teams have existing knowledge but are uncertain about what to do with it, user research helps instil confidence and mitigate the risk in making decisions. This is especially true for new products or initiatives. When research is done well, it can validate a strategy and justify a high upfront investment.
I hope this blog answers some of your questions about user research. Please get in touch if you are interested to learn more.