Every designer knows that — User Research is an important phase of design thinking process and most of them would have conducted user studies of different levels as per the requirements. But, what does it takes to be a qualified User Researcher ?? How will I know if I want to be one?
These are the questions which were haunting me when I decided to focus my passion on being a UX Researcher. Now after all the struggle and experience gained to be a qualified researcher, I can finally tell what it means to be one and how to adopt the correct thought process.
Research is all about empathizing with the user and conveying the in-depth and meaningful findings to teams to make better product decisions for simplifying human lives. A researcher needs to forget what you think you know, create a fresh start, seek the answers for the ‘ WHY ’, and reveal the untold stories.
It was only the tip of the iceberg that I was imagining — there is a lot more than just a what, why, and how to make a real difference.
On the other hand, it takes real commitment and a lot of personal development to do user research well. To be effective, there are certain personal characteristics that a user researcher should have.
Be ‘open-minded’ to listen & understand different perspectives
In a project’s lifespan a researcher needs to interact with a wide variety of people/clients, stakeholders, project team members, and research participants. And it is important to offer an informal, friendly and non-threatening attitude to all those out there. People will only feel comfortable talking to us when they trust us. Early on, as I was a designer, it was a bit easy for me to meet the expectations of the design crew. But I had to clearly understand what success means to other project groups.
It was also important I don’t carry those project level discussions into my research sessions. Once the research strategy is ready, I set up a floor visit to get to know the people and their general work schedules. I Then set friendly practices to make my research participants feel comfortable. These standards not only helped users to open up but also created opportunities for me get deeper insights.
Responsibility to bring CHANGE
There is a lot of difference between only hearing about difficulties and actually experiencing them. And that is what a researcher tries to re-create by shadowing the users in their own environments.
For Example: A friend is going through a heartbreak situation of their life which you already been through. If he/she calls for your support, you never say ‘Believe me I know how it feels, but I can’t help you’ . You would try to make them feel better in all the ways possible.
It’s the same when you are working to implement the best solutions for the users.
Researchers are loyal advocates for the users
Once I understand that there is a direct impact of my recommendations on people, I strive to deliver better experiences and it gives me immense work satisfaction. I consider it my responsibility to effectively communicate my findings to stakeholders. At the same time I have to keep things outside the scope of the problem away to avoid confusion.
Overcoming personal opinions and being neutral to user needs
The action plan of a researcher includes providing recommendations for solving the problems. But my experience tells me not get attached to our own recommendations. It will make us resistant to other creative solutions. A designer or any team working on a solution would want to sell their ideas and during this process, people often become resistant to discussions which are not going in favor. In such situations, a researcher should validate the solutions based on how they address the user needs and how well the user adopts them.
You are no longer a design critic
Especially for someone from a design stream it is a habit that comes with design discussions, audits or fit to finish sessions. Running the design through design standards, guidelines and color codes is a quality that gets developed time and might be hard to overcome and think as a researcher.To counter this , a researcher needs to think in terms of how the design is filling the experience gaps and validates with usability testing methods. Ultimate decision makers of a design should be the ones for whom we are providing solutions for.
Being systematic and accurate
Flawed research can be a significant liability to the success of a product, as well as the company developing it, so it really is important to get it right.
A research session requires listening, observing, understanding, determining whether and when to ask questions, taking notes and recording. To achieve all of this. t is essential to plan a strategy on how to formulate questions, keep track of time, ways to manage the observations, and how to record the findings etc.
Although I was familiar with the process, after a few sessions I realized that I should create my own templates to capture insights and observations. These templates varied by the type of study and characters of the users systems. This also allowed me to analyze the observations within a considerable time and also to document it in a way that other team members can understand.
Storytelling for socializing the findings
After executing a research strategy and analyzing the outcomes, it is equally important to make your findings digestible to your research audience. And to make them effective you can organize the information and communicate it as a story. Constructing individual stories for different pain points will make it more easily consumable than an over slider report. In my Opinion: Reports are cherished and stories are remembered.