I am so passionate about the value of user centricity. The field of user experience has a wide range of research methods available to it ranging from methods such as lab-based usability studies to, the more recently developed, unmoderated remote user testing.
While it’s not realistic to use the full set of methods on every project, my experience has taught me that nearly all projects would benefit from multiple research methods and from combining the insights gathered from each. In fact, I have seen that, very often, designers can be misled by focussing on a methodology which is not suitable. I often hear designers talking about the importance of surveys but it’s so important to understand that users are highly unreliable and speculative when it comes to talking about how they might use an interface or product in the future. The true value is obtained by observing what users do.
So the key question becomes what to do when. To better understand when to use which method, I found it helpful to plot the various research methodologies along a 3-dimensional framework with the following axes:
- Attitudinal vs. Behavioural
- Qualitative vs. Quantitative
- Context of Use
The following chart illustrates 15 methods that I have used widely (including the brand names) and how they are plotted across these dimensions: