Design process

How to Find and Fix UX Issues Early So You Don’t Lose Users


mins to read

Imagine your microwave oven is broken. You buy a new one, and it gets broken again. After throwing your fifth microwave in the garbage bin, you decide to invite an electrician, who discovers that the cause was the poor electric wiring. The good news is, you finally got your wiring fixed. The bad news, you wasted money on five ovens.

A similar thing happens in UX design. When product owners feel that something is not working right, they often decide to make a redesign. But a new look does not guarantee that the underlying problems disappear. Often, they stay and continue frustrating users.

A more efficient method, in this case, is to find UX issues in design and fix them topically, without a full revamp. We can say this for sure, as we’re a SaaS design agency, and fixing bad UX designs is our job. 

Many clients come to us with a request for redesign, but in the process of communication, we discover that there might be faster and cheaper solutions to their problems. And in this article, we’ll give you an idea of how it works.

How to find UX issues?

Finding UX design issues is the first step on a way to UX design problem-solving. There is a number of tools that can be used to detect these issues, or frictions, as we call them. The word “friction” is quite self-descriptive: it’s that feeling that a user has when the product is not designed in the most comfortable way.

Some of these UX research methods, such as user interviews and usability testing, can be run by product owners themselves. On the contrary, methods like UX audit need a person from outside with proper qualifications, a UX professional who is not familiar with the product and can look at your product with a “fresh pair of eyes”.

Usability testing

During usability testing, a researcher follows a group of users while they are performing tasks with the product. It also includes asking questions to understand the motives of the actions. By observing users, the researcher sees where they experience problems, make errors, or get lost. The research can be qualitative, as well as quantitative, and measure a range of usability metrics.

User shadowing

This method may seem similar to usability testing, but there are some critical differences. Shadowing is done in the “natural habitat”, so that the usage situations are not “staged”. User shadowing requires more time and resources from a researcher, but the results can show a wider scope than usability testing.

User interviews

This research method is more subject to biases as the researcher has to rely on what users tell about their experience instead of direct observation. Still, it is a very common tool that brings valuable insights not only to UX professionals, but also to marketing, customer success, and sales departments.

Customer support insights

Sometimes it is hard for designers to get to talk directly to the users, especially when talking about an outsourced team. However, there are people whose full-time job is to talk to users about the problems they encounter while using the product. The customer success team must be the designers’ best friends. They can provide accurate data on what places in the product make users stuck. 


The good thing about analytics is that this tool has little bias in itself, as we’re talking about pure data. Hotjar and Google Analytics don’t flatter designers to make them feel better. 

The challenge with analytics is that its efficiency depends totally on the person who does the analysis. For instance, the analytics show clearly which pages cause users to abandon the task. But what is the reason? That’s the question for researchers to answer.

UX audit

This is Eleken’s ultimate tool when we start working with a new client who finds their existing design unsatisfying. Our designer scans through the product and evaluates every part of it according to the basic requirements of a good design following the heuristics of good design.

As a result, we prepare a UX audit report. In our work, it is typically a presentation of all UX design issues our designers found in the product, suggesting a fix to each of them.

UX audit example

The process of detecting and prioritizing UX issues

It’s always good to have more than one source to find UX issues. The process of working with UX design problems and solutions is not as simple as “find and fix”. Let me explain it using the example Acadeum, an eLearning app we redesigned for our client.

First of all, our designers went through user flows and highlighted the questionable areas. All the problems were listed on post-its in Figma and later discussed with the product team.

detecting UX issues and asking questions

Apart from the UX audit, we also had access to recordings of several in-depth interviews with Acadeum users that we listened to. After that, our designers spoke to the customer support officer, the ultimate expert in users’ troubles. Together, they went through the app again and noted all the areas that were causing difficulties for users.

So, we ended up with a huge list of issues. To make sense of them, our designers sorted them by jobs-to-be-done. On the right side, we placed suggestions of solutions for each one.

Jobs - Pain points - Pain relievers

So, now that we had the problem/solution table, it all seemed perfect… But in the real world, it’s not as easy as taking all of them and changing them at once. There are timing issues, tech demands, and so on.

The solutions had to be prioritized. To do that, we held a workshop with the product team, where we placed all the cards on the Impact/Effort prioritization matrix. At this point, it became clear what must be done first and what could be postponed.

Solutions sorted by important/Nice to have, Likely/Unlikely

Sometimes, when you try to fix every little issue, you lose precious time while trying to reach the stealing perfection. Prioritization helped us to fit into the tight deadline and finish the Acadeum redesign in three months. If you want to learn more about UX problem-solving process, read the full case study.

The two most common questions about UX issues are: “how to identify UX problems” and “how to solve UX problems”. Now that we have answered the first one, let’s move to the next.

In our work, we face all sorts of UX design problems. Examples range from complicated navigation to confusing fonts. The issues described below will give you an overview of the things we work with daily.

Long and confusing fill-in forms

Let’s take as an example a case of one of our clients, Ricochet360, a CRM system.  Here is what the “add a new lead” screen looked like: 30 fields and no hints on how to fill them in.

Ricochet360. Add a new lead screen with 30 fields

Issue: no indication of data format.

Some fields like “phone number” can be entered in many different ways: with spaces, hyphens, brackets, country codes… It causes confusion for the user and complications for the data storage system.

Solution: unify the data format and give hints right in the field.

Fixed UX issues: fields highlighted in red and with asterisks

Issue: the form is too big to grasp.

Do users have to fill all 30 fields every time? Can they easily find the most essential ones?

Solutions: a red asterisk was added next to all the required fields. The most commonly used fields were shown on the screen, while the rest less frequently used were hidden behind the “Additional information” drop-down.

Redesigned screen Ricochet360

Flawed filtering systems

Filtering is an essential feature in apps dealing with large volumes of data. Oftentimes, a small improvement in filtering results in a huge improvement in user experience. That’s the first thing we fixed in Enroly, a student engagement product that hired us for a redesign.

Big table, filter button invisible

Issue: The filter button was not visible

Solution: Remove it from the “search” menu and put it at the top of the screen along with the Search field.

Enroly redesigned. Filter button added

Issue: Long list of filters that is hard to scan through

Enroly with a long list of filters

Solution: Split filters into groups by meaning.

Filters divided into groups: Student, ffers, Engagement, Finance

Issue: Filtering tags were layering one on top of another, thus minimizing the working area.

Filters in two lines, taking too much space

Solution: Place the tags in one row.

Tags placed in one long row

We also tried to simplify the usage of filters by anticipating users' actions to minimize possible errors. For example, in the previous design, users had to enter nationality manually if they wanted to filter students by this characteristic. A simple typo could ruin the search. To prevent this, we created a drop-down list of all nationalities which can be scrolled or chosen after the typing has started.

The story of Enroly shows us the exciting world of filtering design. To find out more, read the full case study.

Cluttered screens

For mapping services, the amount of information that has to be fitted into one screen is one of the main challenges. We had worked with complex mapping products like Involi and Astraea which contain lots of data.

Issue: Side panels take too much space and the map becomes small

Solution: Add a “Hide side menu” button to close and open the side menu when needed.

A map with side menus that can be hidden

Issue: The numerous objects on the map look the same and affect readability.

map with many overlaying objects

Solution: Differentiate the objects (receivers) by color: green for “working”, yellow for “selected”, red for “error”, and grey for “disabled”.

Map with receivers marked with different colors

Bottom line, or how to fix UX issues fast and effectively

Sometimes UX issues are simple and easy to fix. And sometimes, it is the structure of a product that makes the product so complicated to use. In the former case, cosmetic changes are enough, in the latter case, fundamental work is needed to overhaul the structure.

Some issues are ruining the success of your product, while others barely impact anything and are only noticeable to perfectionist designers. 

Overall, there are numerous ways of dealing with UX issues, but there is one golden rule: the earlier you find them, the better.

It means that you don’t have to wait until your churn rate grows to an unsustainable level and the customer support officer burns out from an excessive amount of tickets. Start with finding UX professionals who can have a fresh look at your product and ask them for an audit. At Eleken, we can analyze your product during our 3-day trial and present the issues and suggestions for you to later decide whether you want to us lend you a helping hand or not.

Sounds interesting? Schedule a call and we’ll tell you how to find the top UX issues of your app.

Masha Panchenko


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Design process
min read

Social Distancing and Beyond: How to Design a Smart Software Solution for Safety at Work

Did you know that many things in our daily lives are actually brought about by a catastrophe? That is how the bicycle and canned food were invented. Pandemic is just one of those catastrophes that changed the way we live.

Social distancing has been all over the place in 2020, but this idea is not new. When Europe was suffering from pest in the 17th century, people tried to keep their distance as much as possible. This is how these little windows for buying wine appeared in Italy.

Image credit: bucchettedelvino.org

During the coronavirus pandemic, these "windows" started being used again, after centuries. The pest of 2020 brought new things to our culture, as well.

As designers, we love observing the changes that shape our environment. For the last two years, we have been watching how the floors got covered with “distance” signs, plastic walls were built in the supermarkets, and paths in the buildings became one-direction. Now, when people are getting back to offices, working spaces become subject to social distancing design, as well.

So, what is social distancing?

For those who were on a yoga retreat for the last year, social distancing is a practice aimed at minimizing close contact between people in order to reduce the number of contagions.

Image credit: Maxime on Unsplash

At the end of 2021, social distancing might seem like a hype from the worst days of the pandemic. We all got used to wearing masks and washing our hands, but the situation remained fragile before the massive vaccination started. So, is social distancing even worth the effort in terms of today?

We argue that it is indeed, and for a number of reasons. First of all, the pandemic is not over yet, and even vaccination does not provide 100% protection against the virus. Secondly, social distancing helps us to protect those who can’t be vaccinated. And third, it has benefits beyond the pandemic.

As it became clear  last year, anti-Covid measures have a very positive effect in fighting another type of disease, which is seasonal flu. We always knew that this virus gets spread in crowded places, where people gather even if they have symptoms, but now the correlation between social distancing and contagions is officially proved.

By the way, flu can be a dangerous disease, and even if most people survive it without a strong impact on health, at large scale, companies lose a huge amount of money due to all those flu-related sick leaves.

Why is social distancing important?

Social distancing was practiced in the 17th century and has been believed to be an efficient safety measure since then. 2020 gave us a basis for the studies which proved the effectiveness of social distancing. For instance, research conducted in Germany showed that social distancing helped to avoid 84% of potential contagions.

So, how do we practice social distancing? The basic rules are very simple:

  1. Don’t get closer than 6 feet (2 meters) to anyone.
  2. If you happen to be closer than 6 feet to another person, wear a mask.
  3. Wash your hands before and after touching objects that were touched by someone else.

Social distancing rules work perfectly in a group of people, who are motivated to comply with them and who are conscious of what they are doing at any moment. However, that is not always the case with offices. Even those who understand the importance of social distancing sometimes forget about distance, feel uncomfortable wearing masks for the whole day, and simply can’t comply with the rules when having a live meeting or making a speech.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen people trying to control social distance using various methods, from measuring the temperature at the entrance, placing stickers on the floor to using sensors in the office and even bracelets signaling the closeness of other workers.

Here are some of the most popular ways of solving the problem of social distancing in the offices and the tech solutions addressing them.

5 ways to make workspace safe for everyone

Office schedules 

The experience of remote working during the pandemic showed us that:

  • remote work is more feasible than we thought it was, and 
  • remote work has some downsides as well. 

When companies started bringing their employees back to the offices, it turned out that the need to have less crowded spaces is met positively by the workers that don’t feel the need to be in the office daily on a 9 to 5 basis.

Office schedules provide each worker some days of office time, while the rest of the time they work from home. This way, the density of people at the office space diminishes. Depending on the job specifics, some people may come just once a week, others — shift 1 week at the office and 1 week at home.

Image credit: appointy.com

As with many needs that appear suddenly, the first solutions were made in Excel, but soon special software came on the market, such as Appointy. This is a product designed as a response to pandemic, but actually, there have been similar products even before. For example, software that coworking spaces used to manage the occupancy of meeting rooms.

Distance-conscious space planning

Making an office truly “socially distant” requires certain changes made to the space design: the tables rearranged so that people are not sitting too closely to each other, corridors and stairs made one-way, seats in common spaces placed in distance one from another. Distance-conscious space design requires detecting the spaces that gather groups of people and finding ways to make them less crowded. 

Indoor mapping solutions like SpaceIQ offer a set of tools for pandemic-conscious facility management.

Image credit: SpaceIQ

Controlling the number of people goes from a simple decrease in the number of workers in the office by 30% or 50% percent to the installation of sensors that detect those entering and signaling when there are too many people.

Small interventions in space as reminders

Warning signs are a simple way of keeping people conscious of safety measures. Instead of moving all the furniture around the office, you may just place stickers on tables, marking the places that should remain free, put signs that the use of the kitchen is limited, or hang the reminders to wear masks in common areas.

Image credit: Elizabeth McDaniel on Unsplash

These measures will have an effect if the employees are conscious of social distancing. When these simple methods don’t work, you have to go for different safety-providing tools.

Wearables tracking distance between workers

Image credit: docoyo.com

Just like the first anti-contagion apps that kept track of all close contacts, similar solutions can be used in offices. For example, Docoyo offers bracelets that vibrate when employees get too close to each other. When a positive case is detected, this app will show all people who have a risk of contagion.

Tailored office management software

Smart planning of office safety depends on many variables: office space, ventilation system, health condition of the employees, number of people in risk groups, and so on. There are some solutions that send regular questionnaires to employees asking how they feel.

Tracking health condition of the workers allows employers to warn people who were in contact with an infected person, but they won’t do anything with those who have the virus without any symptoms. What is more, obliging employees to share information about their health condition is illegal. Thus, this system is only possible when all workers agree to share their health data voluntarily.

This is just a part of the ideas that we’ve had while brainstorming on the MVP for Haven diagnostics, a product that helps people to get back to post-pandemic offices safely. Haven started with making custom plans for “going back to normal” for big companies, and at some point decided to automatize their work.

All those brilliant ideas, however,  created additional challenges that made them hard to implement for most companies. For example, having a list of employees with data about their positive Covid test results or vaccination is not feasible due to privacy protection. So, we decided to make a dashboard with a list of all the employees (no names, only corporate ID numbers) with the data that shows those who are at higher risk. 

Image credit: Eleken for Haven Diagnostics

This depersonalized data combined with the information about current contagion rates in the state, where the office is located, allows the software to give recommendations regarding office occupancy.

As we could not use the sensors and other hardware technologies, we decided to use the unique expertise of Haven and offer clients something different from other offers on the market: by applying math models that are used by healthcare professionals, the software can give not only an analysis of current situation and advice on improving it, but also a projection of the future contagion rate. On the dashboard, each office would highlight in yellow or red when the projection is alarming. All the models are visualized in graphs.

Image credit: Eleken for Haven Diagnostics

During interviews with clients, we have discovered another problem that they are facing: the companies that have offices in different states find it hard to follow everchanging confusing restrictions imposed by each state. To simplify this process for the users, Haven automatically analyses the current situation in each office and its compliance with relevant state regulations.

Final thoughts

Is social distancing there to stay? Or will we have to move the furniture in a new direction next year? Pandemic trends appeared to be more lasting than we initially expected. Offices have to adjust to the new reality, and the tech is responding fast.

Want to learn more about healthtech? Then you're welcome to read our article Healthcare UX: How Design Can Solve Biggest Challenges for Patients, Clinicians, and Institutions.

Design process
min read

14 Essential UX Research Methods and How They Are Used

Every delightful and every frustrating artifact that exists in the human world, exists thanks to a series of design decisions. The difference between the delightful and the frustrating design lies in the area of research. Wait, research?

“Research” sounds like money you don’t have and time you can’t spare sitting on your butt instead of moving forward and creating something. Once a project is born, it’s already over budget and behind the schedule. The startup gold rush makes us racing faster, harder, stronger through the roadmap. So it looks like we need to cross the research off the list.

But for a design to be successful, it must serve the needs and desires of actual humans. And unfortunately being a human is not enough to understand almost 8 billion other humans on the Earth.

Every time you make a product decision, you are placing a bet. You risk doing something wrong (or doing something right but in the wrong way). With guesswork, your chances for success are fifty-fifty. Either you guess it, or you don't.

Research is the ace up your sleeve you can play to avoid a costly mistake. The more you learn, the better your chances are. Rather than piling on the costs, user experience research can save you a ton of time and effort.

It seems obvious why user research matters until you have to prove this necessity to clever people with revolutionary business ideas. As a UI/UX design agency, we even have a doc called “How to explain to clients that some time should be allocated to research.”

This post exists to help you figure out what UX research is, how it fits into the user experience research process, and how to do user experience research if you’re already over budget and behind the schedule.

What is user experience research?

Have you ever seen the cartoon Hedgehog in the fog? It’s a Soviet 10-minute cartoon, unfamiliar for foreigners, that always leaves me in tears.

A hedgehog makes his regular evening journey to his friend, bear cub. Finding his way through the forest, he sees an unfamiliar fog bank. Getting off the path, the hedgehog curiously inspects the fog and gets completely turned around. A falling leaf terrifies him, bats scare him, and a weird owl tags along with him. Mysterious strangers and a pinch of luck help him find the right way.

It reminds me of starting a design project. Every time we develop something new, we stand at the frontier of knowledge, in front of the fog. To design, to write, to code the best solution ever existed for the problem we’ve just faced, we have to embrace danger, plunge ahead into the unknown, exposing ourselves to criticism and failure every single day.

You can be brave, and jump right into the fog with fingers crossed. Or you can remain on shore waiting till the smoke clears. What else you can do is to let a firefly light your way — just enough for a better view of your surroundings. UX research is your firefly.

Erika Hall, in Just Enough Research, defines UX research as a systematic inquiry. You want to know more about the foggy topic in front of you, so you go through a research iteration to increase your knowledge. The type of research depends on what and when you want to know.

Types of UX research and how they can benefit you

There are many, many ways to classify types of user research. The one I've chosen for you helps to understand what kind of research can be useful at different stages of your design process.

Generative UX research

You run the generative UX research to find the endpoint of our design project when staying in front of a fog bank. Such research leads to ideas and helps define the design problem. The generative toolkit includes googling, reviewing all the existent solutions in the niche, conducting interviews and field observations.

We, as a design agency, rarely have to deal with generative research. Take one of our clients, TextMagic. Originally, the app helped companies connect with clients via text messages. But the team figured out that their audience would appreciate some new features for marketing, customer support, and sales. This is when they turned to Eleken — when a round of generative research was in order.

Descriptive research

Descriptive user experience study is our alpha and the omega, and the bright morning star. This is what we do when we already have a design problem, aka our endpoint. We’re looking for the optimal way to the point — the best way to solve the problem that was identified during the generative research phase.

To find the optimal way, we need to put ourselves into the users’ context — to ensure that we design for the audience, not for ourselves. Based on your goals, resources, and the timeline of the project, you can choose from a wide landscape of user research methods to gather the info you need. Look how we did descriptive research for Gridle, a client management app that came to us for a redesign.

We figured out that the Gridle team used Inspectlet, a session recording app, for their internal web analytics. So we got a chance to examine recordings of how visitors were using Gridle.

With zero research budget and in the shortest term possible, we understood which features users couldn't live without and which ones they didn't mind skipping. Just as if we were looking over their shoulders. Thus, we’ve learned what was good and what could be improved.

Empathy map Eleken did for Gridle

Next, we wanted to understand how we should improve the app to make it more valuable for users. Gridle had a strong customer base on Facebook, so it was easy to find volunteers for one-hour user interviews. As a result, we could understand and prioritize users’ needs, and transfer them to an empathy map.

Evaluative research

Once we have a clear idea of the problem we're trying to solve, and the way we’re going to solve it, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working on potential solutions. In the process, we need to check how we are doing to fix any issue before it causes further mistakes.

When you’re doing such ongoing testing, you’re doing evaluative research. It works best when you test your progress iteratively as you move through the design process. The most common method of evaluative research is usability testing, but any time you put your solution in front of your client or the audience, the feedback you get counts as a round of evaluative research.

Causal research

As your app or website is live, you may notice that people behave unexpectedly. Maybe something went wrong, or surprisingly good. When you want to understand what happened, you resort to causal research.

For instance, we at Eleken have figured out that a part of our leads isn’t a great fit for our business model. We’re focusing on UI/UX design for SaaS apps. That’s what we know best, and that’s what we are brilliant at. Yes, we can help our loyal customers with marketing design, for instance, but if a notable part of leads comes to us for marketing design specifically, there’s something to be adjusted inside of our landing page. The task of casual research here is to find an element that needs to be adjusted.

When it’s just enough research

No UX research is one extreme. The opposite extreme is nonstop inconclusive testing of random things, like button colors or fonts in pursuit of a good user experience. Doing irrelevant research, you risk ending up disillusioned or losing organizational support for any experiments.

You can’t test everything, and you’ll never reach 100% confidence in your design until it’s live. That’s a little rush of adrenaline that makes our job so satisfying. When thinking of a research round, ask yourself, is this absolutely necessary to do?

How to do user research in UX? To make the best use of your time, try to measure the importance of UX research projects in terms of hedging risks. Imagine, what bad thing would happen if in half a year from now you’ll realize that:

  • you were solving the wrong problem,
  • you were working on the feature that doesn’t actually matter for users;
  • you were wrong about your users’ habits and preferences.

If you’re not sitting in a cold sweat now, that is probably not your top-priority research.

How to start a UX research project

What is key in a user research? It’s your objectives that define what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what you expect from the UX research process.

As soon as you are ready with objectives, you start looking for appropriate research methods. It can be interviews or focus groups, A/B testing or usability research techniques, it all depends on the goals set and your resources.

Here is the list of our favorite UX research methods we use regularly to answer those questions.

Squidward: No Patrick. Copying features from other apps is not UX research (meme)

Diary study

Used: to learn users, their feelings and habits deeply

+++ may open new insights in the areas that were out of the attention of the researchers

- - - depends on how motivated and dedicated the users are 

This is the ultimate UX research method that lets you get inside the mind of the users. For a diary study, you have to ask users to write a diary for a period of time. The diary would contain all the reflections related to the subject of the study: thoughts, actions, emotions, desires, etc. It can last for a week or more, depending on the subject and the time available.

Diary study works great at the initial stages, when it is important to understand well users goals, jobs-to-be-done, and problems. Collected information makes a solid foundation for the user persona.

Ethnographic (field) research

Used: to see how users interact with the product

+++ studies real situations, not modeling

- - - not always accessible

Ethnographic Research (aka Contextual Inquiry) is a process of observing users in their natural environment, analyzing their ways of acting in certain situations. It is the same process that an ethnographer does, but with a very concrete focus on the product, activity, or problem that the UX researcher is interested in.

Observing people in real-life situations is not always feasible. For example, visiting a bank headquarters to study how employees use the CRM system is easier than observing how people use dating apps.

Mouse tracking & click tracking

Used: to test a prototype or find issues in the ready product

+++ can collect data about behavior patterns of a large number of users 

- - - risk of incorrect conclusion 

Compared to other user research techniques that involve a researcher following the user interactions in real-time or in screen recording, this method allows a UX researcher to process more data from a large number of users and see the major tendencies of user interactions. To choose the right software for that, check out our list of best UX research tools.

Here are some of the insights that heatmaps of mouse tracking reveal:

• What parts of the interface have the most clicks?

• What buttons have fewer than expected clicks?

And so on. Click heatmap doesn’t give direct answers, but it certainly highlights the areas that need some improvement.


Eyetracking map
Image credit: MeasuringU

Used: to test user interface

+++ highly precise

- - - requires special technical resources

Just like with click tracking and mouse tracking, there are hints that need the right interpretation. Why do users spend so much time looking at the headline? Is it because the font is so beautiful or because the text is hard to read? Or both?

If eyetracking sounds like a thing from an anti-utopia novel, don’t worry. It is a relatively new technology, but it does not require very sophisticated devices. Unlike some other techniques described here that require just a researcher, a user, and a notebook, this one can’t be done without special software. However, it is more affordable than you would expect. Eye trackers use cameras, projectors, and algorithms to catch the user’s gaze.

While click tracking shows actions that involve thinking and intention, eyetracking captures the reactions that might be hard to reflect on, and therefore would not appear in user interviews. Like when people tend to focus too much on the picture that is supposed to be just a background to the text.


In-depth interview (IDI)

Used: at any stage

+++ allows to get lots of insights and be flexible when asking questions

- - - takes a lot of time to cover many respondents

As you may guess, this method of UX research implies one-on-one talk between the researcher and the user. There are two types of interviews: directed (following a prepared list of questions) and non-directed (letting the interviewee talk about their experience, with as little interruption as possible). The latter technique gives an opportunity to find some insights about the user experience that the researcher was not aware of.

When you have the list of questions ready, estimate the duration of the talk and inform the interviewee in advance.

Intercept interview

Used: at any stage

+++ random but well-targeted selection of respondents

- - - hard to get detailed information since people may not be ready to dedicate much time to it

To run this type of interview, the researcher has to “catch” users or potential users in the place of their natural habitat, in a situation when they would be using the product. This type of interview has to be short, but it can be combined with field research to provide more information.

Let’s say we want to see how people interact with a supermarket loyalty app. To do this, we go directly to the supermarket, watch people using it, and ask questions.


Email survey

Image credit: beefree.io

Used: at any stage

+++ Cheap and accessible

- - - Risk of non-response error (you miss the valuable input of people who are frustrated with the product or just don’t want to fill in email surveys)

This is one of the most natural ways to reach a large number of target customers. It is much easier to get people to answer a few questions than going for an hour-long interview. Needs no coordination in time and space, no geographical limits. 

Email survey works best with an existing database of users. When you are doing a UX research for a new product without a customer database, you have to be sure to send out your emails to contacts that belong to the target audience. You can include a couple of questions regarding demographics to know whether their profiles are relevant to the product. 

Email surveys don’t have to be paid, but to increase the amount of filling in surveys, you can give small presents to those who finished it.

On-site survey

Image credit: survicate.com

Used: to understand what users think of an existing product

+++ captures the experience of real users at the right moment

- - - possible only when the product is already out there and functioning

This survey appears on the page right after the user has interacted with the product. This way, very direct questions can be asked like what was the user intent, whether they succeeded, and what were the issues. An on-site survey allows the research to cover any segment of users: those who are using a particular feature, or those who exit the website without purchase, and so on.

Surveys are some of the most common and easy to execute UX research techniques. With a survey, you can collect both quantitative and qualitative data with close-ended and open-ended questions. However, trying to insert too many questions is dangerous: the longer the survey, the fewer the responses.  Good practice is to warn users how long the survey will take before it starts.

Focus group

Used: to discover users needs and feelings

+++ Takes less time compared to individual interviews

- - - Hard to conduct online

A focus group is when a researcher has a conversation with a group of users at the same time. The average number of participants is 6-9 persons. Focus group is not just for saving time on personal interviews: the results can vary. People behave differently when they are around peers.

Working with a focus group requires special preparation: knowledge of psychology helps create the right atmosphere and get valuable insights.

Card sorting

Card sorting. A man arranging cards on the table
Image credit:  UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Used: when building informational architecture

+++ requires little preparation

- - - the results may be inconsistent and hard to analyze

Card sorting is a method that helps build the very fundamental architecture of the product. All the main units are written on separate cards and users are asked to sort them into categories. This tool prevents designers from blindly following habitual structures that they have used before. 


Tree testing. Tree structure
Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group

Used: when you have to verify information architecture or test how it works with user tasks.

+++ works both online and offline

- - - only tests informational architecture without taking into account other factors

This method can be the next step after card sorting or can be used separately when the informational architecture is already created and needs to be verified.

To start, you present a complete hierarchy of all the categories. Then, the researcher asks the user to find a particular category. 

Try to avoid giving direct indications, like “Find UI/UX services”. Let’s imagine we are testing the navigation of this website. The task may sound something like “You are about to launch a SaaS startup and you are looking for designers to make an MVP. What page would you go to?”.

Competitors analysis and benchmarking

Used: at the initial stages of development and when analyzing the existing product

+++ good tool for finding product-market fit

- - - excludes real users

Finally, there is a UX research method that doesn’t require talking to strangers. Seems like an obvious step in developing a product, but you’d be surprised to find out how many product owners skip deep research and rely on what they know already about the market.

Why do you need in-depth competitors analysis? First of all, it saves you from reinventing the wheel. Sometimes when you commit too much to design thinking, you end up crafting a solution that is already present on the market. Secondly, analyzing competitors helps you find their weak points that you would address, and define a value proposition that will make your product stand out.

Usability testing

Used: to analyze how user-friendly the product or prototype is

+++ allows to see the interaction and talk to users to understand them better

- - - limited amount of users studied

Usability testing is how most people imagine UX research. A researcher following a group of users while they are performing tasks with the product. Usability testing also includes asking questions to understand the motives of the actions.

Based on the results, a researcher can define potential issues and solve them in the next iteration.

A/B testing

Used: to compare two versions of a solution

+++ shows clearly which version is chosen by the majority of users

- - - hard to execute in some cases

For the A/B test to work, a group of users has to be divided randomly in two. Two versions of a product are offered to each group, and the results compared to understand which one performs better. A/B testing can be executed on its own or in combination with another UX research method: for example, tree testing of two different hierarchies. 

It is important to make the A and B versions not too varied so that the results of the study wouldn’t be interpreted adversely.

Final thoughts

This list is not exhaustive, there are new methods and tools appearing constantly in the world of UX design. Each stage requires different techniques, and it takes time and experience to figure out which one works best for a particular case.

Why UX research is important (meme)

Still wondering if you need all of it for your project? Ask our professionals, they know all what, which, when, and whys of UX research. Drop us a line!

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