From televisions and toasters to websites and apps, products succeed when they give users what they need and want, with maximum convenience and ease of use. With the help of user experience (UX) research, product designers and developers have a roadmap for creating products that solve user problems, satisfy unmet needs, and provide enjoyment.
UX researchers collect and analyze the real-world data that guide product design. And today, UX research is one of the most in-demand and lucrative jobs in the information space. In this article, we will discuss a UX researcher’s role and how you can gain UX researcher qualifications through an online UI UX course.
What Is a UX Researcher?
UX research is a place where psychology and technology meet. UX researchers are curious, creative people working with various data collection methods to help product developers learn who their users are and what they want from their products. The user feedback and data they collect and analyze will inform all phases of the design thinking process, helping developers to refine prototypes based on the insights gathered from studying user behaviors and attitudes.
The Importance of a UX Researcher
In a competitive global marketplace, UX researchers are crucial in helping companies deliver new and better products to those who want them. User experience research focuses on discovering and understanding exactly how and why real people use products, so it can help to shape the design process and avoid costly mistakes. Insights from UX research can also play an important role in designing product marketing campaigns that target users’ needs, wants, and “pain points.”
UX research also provides a way for product users to influence the design and development of the products they buy. Their documented experiences and opinions can reveal a product’s design flaws and provide actionable suggestions for improvement. That leads to a better experience for all users.
What Does a UX Researcher Do?
A UX researcher’s responsibility is to gather as much information as possible about how users interact with products and how they feel about those interactions. UX research methods generally combine various strategies for collecting different types of data, and you can learn these methods through online UX training.
Quantitative research collects numerical and statistical data about users’ interactions with a product, such as the length of time spent doing a specific task, the number of users who were able to complete the task, and which features were used or skipped. Quantitative research provides measurable data that can help designers improve upon existing versions of a product and roll out new ones.
Qualitative research investigates “soft” factors that emerge from user interactions with a product. That can include behavioral and attitudinal research. Behavioral research focuses on what users do when interacting with a product, such as navigating a web page or setting up a new device. Attitudinal research gathers insights about how users feel about their experiences using a product and which features they like and dislike.
To collect and analyze all possible data about users’ real-world experiences, UX researchers can employ a variety of strategies, such as:
- Interviews and focus groups with actual product users. Individual user interviews and focus group discussions are conducted in person or online. They provide an open-ended format for users to discuss all aspects of their experience and make recommendations for changes or improvements.
- Surveys. Questionnaires and surveys can be designed to collect both qualitative and quantitative information about user experiences. They can be repeated to track changes over a product’s life cycle. Surveys can include multiple-choice and open-ended questions to collect both numerical data and information about user attitudes.
- A/B (split) testing. This strategy presents users with two versions of a product or campaign to see which one a test audience or focus group prefers. That might involve showing each option to a different group or asking one group to choose when presented with two options.
- Usability research. To conduct usability testing, a researcher observes while users try to complete a specific task with the product, such as navigating a web page or assembling an item. Conducting usability testing can reveal data about how long it takes to do the task, how many steps it involves, and what obstacles users encounter.
- Logs and diaries. A researcher might ask a select group of users to keep a log or diary of their everyday interactions with the product over weeks or months. Recording all instances of product use can reveal how it is used, when, and who uses it most.
A UX researcher’s role and responsibilities can vary considerably depending on the industry and the demands of individual projects. In general, though, UX researchers can expect to:
- Work with designers and developers to establish research objectives
- Develop an overall research strategy for collecting the data needed to achieve those objectives
- Analyze data from all sources to gain key insights for shaping product development
- Present research results to stakeholders, including designers, developers, and company decision-makers
What Skills Are Required for a Career in UX Research?
UX research requires both technical skills and “soft” skills, such as empathy and creativity. Although the specifics can vary considerably across industries, UX researcher qualifications typically include the following:
- Communication skills. UX researchers must be able to collaborate with many people in many different environments. They work with company designers and developers to plan and carry out research projects and with research participants and other company stakeholders. They must also be able to present research findings clearly and concisely to company stakeholders ranging from decision-makers to marketers.
- Understanding of the design process. Although design skills and experience aren’t generally required for a career in UX research, you’ll need to understand the stages of the design process, from idea to finished product. That helps UX researchers create a project that captures the data designers must have to meet the needs and expectations of users.
- Problem-solving abilities. UX research projects are designed to discover user problems and help designers find solutions. Critical thinking, creativity, and curiosity are key to developing research projects that capture the right data and deliver the insights that shape product development.
- Analytical thinking for working with data. Along with collecting data, user researchers must also be able to analyze that data and extract the insights that designers and other stakeholders need to create new products and refine existing ones. UX researchers need to be able to synthesize information from diverse sources and present it in easily understandable formats for a diverse group of stakeholders ranging from design teams to company decision-makers.
How To Become a UX Researcher
UX research is a relatively new field that embraces aspects of technology, psychology, and communication, so the paths to a career as a UX researcher can vary considerably. Many UX researcher roles require at least a bachelor’s degree, but that degree can be in fields as diverse as computer science, statistics, psychology, or human-computer interaction, a multidisciplinary field focusing on designing computers for maximum ease of use.
Becoming a UX designer without a degree—or with a degree in a completely unrelated field is also possible. Aspiring UX researchers can build general UX and industry-specific skills through a UI/UX bootcamp that leads to a professional certificate or conduct UX research in their existing jobs. It’s also possible to get experience conducting user research by volunteering for a local business or nonprofit group.
A portfolio that demonstrates hands-on experience can be as effective as a degree in new, technology-driven fields. So once you’ve completed a few projects, creating a user research portfolio that showcases your skills can boost your job search success. Engaging with online UX communities and UX research organizations is also helpful for learning, networking, and building the connections that can help you find work.
Thousands of remote and in-office UX research jobs are listed across the US and the world on major employment listing sites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor. And many more are posted on industry-specific job boards and websites. Opportunities include mid-level and senior positions requiring considerable experience and advanced skills and numerous entry-level jobs for newcomers to the field. The average UX researcher salary is around $80,000, and the field has a projected job growth of 19 percent by 2027. UX researchers can work in industries of all kinds to plan research projects that yield insights for better product development and user satisfaction.
Companies across all industries rely on UX research to collect user feedback that can improve products, shape marketing campaigns, and produce satisfied consumers. With high salaries and plenty of opportunities for newcomers, user experience research is a fast-growing field that’s accessible to just about anyone with empathy, curiosity, and a knack for working with people and data—and today’s UX UI certification programs, bootcamps, and communities have the resources you need for success as a UX researcher.