What are the types of UX research? How can they be classified? When to use a particular type of research and what does it depend on? – We’ll attempt to answer those questions in the following article, in which we will break down UX research in different contexts and describe the key differences between each type of research. Curious to find out? Read on!

Types of UX research – table of contents:

  1. Different types of UX research
  2. Quantitative vs qualitative research
  3. Attitudinal vs behavioral research
  4. Generative vs evaluative research
  5. Remote vs. in-person user research
  6. Types of UX research – summary

Different types of UX research

As we already wrote in the previous article, UX research is an essential part of the design process in any organization – it allows you to get to know the user and their behavior, adjust the product (website or application in the case of a digital product) to their needs, while affecting the company’s position in the market, its bottom line and further development.

UX research is a very broad field, conducting it requires knowledge and experience, you need to know when to use a particular method, how to set research hypotheses, how to ask questions to respondents as well as analyze the collected data. Today we will present selected types of research and the differences between them.

Quantitative vs qualitative research

The first – and perhaps most well-known division – is the distinction between qualitative and quantitative research. When conducting UX research, it is useful to use a combination of qualitative and quantitative research to get answers to research questions and gain interesting insights for the project team. Quantitative research methods rely on large samples of people to establish certain trends and draw general conclusions for a given, studied group. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is a suitable method when you want to obtain more in-depth information and put the trend under study in context – to understand it and learn about its causes.

Let’s take a look at this with the example of an emerging university library app that makes it easier to search, borrow and return books:

  • Conducting quantitative research (for example, in the form of a survey sent to students’ university email addresses) will help find out, among other things, what percentage of students use the university library, how often they borrow books and what literary genre is most popular.
  • Qualitative research (e.g., individual in-depth interviews – IDI) will allow us to delve deeper into this topic and find out what would make students use the library more often, what literary items they miss, and whether they use competing institutions (e.g., the city library or another university’s library), how much time per week they spend reading books, how long they keep books borrowed from the library and why. By conducting in-depth interviews, we can also find out why people who don’t use the library are reluctant to do so – perhaps they have trouble setting up a library account, the library’s offerings are unsuitable for their needs or they have other concerns, they have encountered some difficulties in the process of borrowing and returning books so far.

As you can see, these two types of research differ, so qualitative and quantitative research shouldn’t proceed but complement each together. To have a complete picture of user experience, it is necessary to find out what is happening (the trend – quantitative research) and why (the cause of the trend – qualitative research). You’ll get to know the user as well as possible and develop a solution tailored to their needs and requirements.

Types of UX research - Quantitative vs qualitative research

Attitudinal vs behavioral research

Often misunderstood as the same – attitudinal research and behavioral research are not synonymous. However, like the quantitative and qualitative research discussed above, both can be used in parallel to get a more complete picture of the user.

Attitudinal research concerns users’ preconceived attitudes or feelings about a given experience – an example might include eliciting reasons for favoring (or not) a particular solution, functionality on a site, even before entering it as attitude can relate to previous experiences, trust in the brand, some beliefs or fears

Behavioral research, on the other hand, focuses on what the user does – how he or she navigates the site, what he or she clicks on, how he or she makes a purchase, and what steps they take when looking for the given information.

You can see a connection here (as with qualitative and quantitative research) – behavioral research answers the question of what happens, while attitude research answers the question of why it happens. It should also always be kept in mind that what users say and what they do can differ significantly – so it is worth supplementing an attitude survey with a behavioral survey.

Generative vs evaluative research

Generative research is defined as a research method that helps researchers gain a deeper understanding of the user’s environment to find opportunities for a given solution (either being improved or yet to be marketed). To identify these opportunities, a problem must be defined and a potential solution sought for it. This requires a very good understanding of how people live (including the environment they live in), how they behave, what attitudes they display, and how they perceive certain things.

When conducting generative research, the most important thing is to remain open-minded – because we don’t yet know what problem we will come to solve. Without generative research, we may end up creating a product that no one needs. The most crucial part of generative research is just identifying the problem.

Evaluation research, on the other hand, can be defined as a research method used to evaluate an already concrete problem – to ensure that it is useful and matches the needs and desires of real people. The purpose of this methodology is to test an existing solution to see and evaluate whether it meets people’s actual needs and is easy and pleasant to use. We should conduct this type of research throughout the product development cycle, from early conceptual design to the final site, application or product.

Evaluation research should always be part of the design process. Getting designs into the hands of potential users as soon and as often as possible will allow us to tailor a product or solution so that it truly meets the needs and expectations of customers.

Remote vs. in-person user research

We can also divide research from a logistical point of view – into those conducted stationary and those conducted remotely. Nowadays, it is no longer a problem to conduct an in-depth interview or even a usability test remotely. Here the choice of method depends on the company, the project team, budget, location as well as the individual situation of the organization or the research group. It is worth remembering that with today’s technologies, we are not limited to conducting research remotely. In our later articles, we plan to prepare a compilation of interesting tools useful in the work of a UX researcher – we’ll cover tools worth testing for eye-tracking, recording interviews or conducting usability tests online.

Types of UX research – summary

We could list the types of UX research for a long time to come – formal and informal research, moderated and unmoderated research (that is, research conducted with or without the presence of a moderator-researcher). However, we decided to introduce the most important ones at the beginning – those that every aspiring UX researcher should know. As you can see, the methods vary, many of them are complementary, and it’s even a good idea to use several different research methods at once – to get the most accurate data, information as well as clues, and turn them into a solution tailored to the needs and requirements of users at a later stage.

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Author: Klaudia Kowalczyk

A graphic & UX Designer which conveys into design what cannot be conveyed in words. For him, every used color, line or font has a meaning. Passionate in graphic and web design.

UX research:

  1. What is UX research?
  2. Types of UX research
  3. What are research questions and how to write them?