User experience (UX) designfocuses on identifying the obstacles people encounter when trying to accomplish a goal and how those obstacles might be removed. UX research looks at users’ behavior and attitudes when they engage with the product. These studies bridge the gap between what a business thinks users want and what users say they want.

Qualities of a Good UX Researcher

Good UX researchers need to be good communicators, enjoy interacting with people, and have good attention to detail. One of the important qualities of a researcher is empathy, the ability to imagine what a user is experiencing. This helps when formulating interview and survey questions. Pragmatism is another important quality, which means that the researcher can keep in mind the cost and effort of getting the information and weigh it against the time and budget constraints of the project. Collaboration is also important because researchers are part of the design team and need to work together with the other members. Finally, research is only as good as the data collected, so the ability to perform tests consistently and record results accurately is crucial to good research.

Timing of Research

Because UX design is a team effort that repeats as needed, research comes in at different times in the product development cycle. There are four basic stages of research:

  • Foundational - Also known as strategic research, foundational research happens before the project gets the official go-ahead. This is the phase where data are gathered to assess the general situation.
  • Definition - This phase of research defines the problem and identifies the pain points users are experiencing as they try to accomplish their goals.
  • Design - This phase builds on the others and looks at how the product should be built.
  • Post-launch - Post-launch research tests the success of the product and points to improvements for the future.

Research Methods

The type of research method you choose depends upon the questions you want to answer. If you are looking for answers to questions of howmany or how much, you want to do quantitative research. This includes various types of surveys, especially those that ask respondents to choose a numerical answer or indicate a number on a scale. If your question is about how then you want to conduct qualitative research such as personal interviews, focus groups, and user observations.

Another way to group research is by whether it is primary research or secondary research. Primary research is research that you do yourself. Whether it consists of interviews, surveys, or usability tests, if you collected the information, it is primary research. Everything else falls into the category of secondary research, that is information gathered by someone else. The most common form of secondary research is published information in books and articles, and this type of research is often done first by the product leads on the team. The advantage of using secondary research is that it saves time and money because you don’t need to repeat what someone else has already done, but a drawback of secondary research is that it doesn’t give you information about your product.

Research Tools

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UX Researchers have various types of tools available to get the information they need to drive user-centered design. Some of these tools are listed below.


Interviewing users or potential users of a product lets you collect the opinions, thoughts, and attitudes towards a process and your product’s place in it. It is important to ask detailed, open-ended questions to gather the kinds of responses that are the most useful. This kind of interview is expensive and time-consuming, so the sample size tends to be small, but interviews help the UX Researcher understand what users think and why. You can also ask follow-up questions later.


Surveys involve asking participants to choose from a list or make a numerical ranking. They include a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions and can provide a larger sample size. Surveys can be done quickly and are relatively inexpensive, but they don’t give the kind of in-depth feedback you get from interviews.

Usability Studies

In usability studies, UX Researchers observe users interacting with the actual product. They can identify problems or pain points along the way. Usability studies can be used to challenge the assumptions of the design team and make sure the process is on track. The drawbacks of usability studies are that they only measure how easy a product is to use and they are expensive. They must be done on-site in a lab, the users are usually paid for their participation, and it is difficult to tell if users behave the same way n a lab as they would in real life.

The Problem of Bias

Beyond the constraints of time and money, bias is the biggest problem with research. Bias means favoring or being prejudiced against something based on personal attitudes. Bias is usually based on limited information and is often unconscious. One important thing to keep in mind about bias is that it is almost universal and UX Researchers need to be constantly checking for it in their research designs.

Kinds of Bias

There are many different kinds of bias that can affect research, but here are six of the most common. The better you are at identifying bias, the better your research results will be.

  • Confirmation bias - Confirmation bias happens when you start out looking for evidence to prove a hypothesis instead of gathering evidence and forming a theory that reflects the data. Some ways to avoid confirmation bias is to ask open-ended questions when interviewing and to include a large sample of users. Another way to get around confirmation bias is through active listening, which means concentrating on the speaker’s message rather than simply hearing the words.
  • False consensus bias - False consensus bias is the assumption that others think the same way you do or the assumption that anyone who doesn’t agree with you is abnormal. It is easy to overestimate the number of people who agree with an idea or design feature, so it is important to identify and articulate assumptions to check for false consensus bias.
  • Primacy bias - Primacy bias is the tendency people have to remember the first participant better than the others.
  • Recency bias - Recency bias is the tendency to remember the last thing you heard. To guard against primacy and recency bias, be sure to take notes, record all interviews, follow consistent interview techniques, and ask the same questions of all subjects.
  • Unconscious bias - Unconscious bias occurs when a UX Research’s personal prejudices and stereotypes impact the study. It becomes a problem when subjects within a limited set of identity profiles are chosen based on researcher assumptions. This can lead to a lack of representation in the subject and skew the results of the research. It is helpful to ask others to review our research plan and comment on any biases they can see.
  • Sunk cost fallacy - The sunk cost fallacy comes into play when time and money have been invested into a project and the team is resistant to changing course. It can be useful to break the project down into smaller phases and designate testing points along the way. This will help the team decide whether to continue or go back and change things based on new insights.

Where to Learn UX Design

If you would like to learn more about UX design and research in order to switch to a new career, one of the best ways to do that is to sign up for classes. You can choose classes that meet in-person or online to learn design software and other applications. Some people prefer to attend brick-and-mortar sessions when learning new information, but that isn’t always available. Live online classes have a similar set-up with a real-time, remote instructor who can answer questions and take control of your monitor—with permission—to show you how to do things. Training is part or full-time and available weekdays, weeknights, or weekends.


It’s easy to learn UX design and start a new career. Check out Noble Desktop’s UX design classes. Choose between in-person sessions in NYC at Noble’s location or sign up for live online UX design courses and attend from anywhere. Use Noble Desktop’s Classes Near Me to find other UX design bootcamps in your area.