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Design process

What Does a UX Researcher Do?

6

mins to read

In 2022, at least 750,000 openings for UX researchers were reported across the US. These days, spending money on user research is not something that only big companies do. It is the opposite: the vast majority of businesses, including tiny startups, just can’t afford to skip the UX research.

Knowing your users is a must. The cost of wrong assumptions would be much higher than the research cost. As a design agency, we always base our work on thorough research, and we are glad to see this trend as it aligns with our pragmatic approach to design.

So, what does a UX researcher do? Poetically speaking, saves your product from a tough clash with reality. In the design thinking framework, their job has mostly to do with the first stage of the design: emphasizing.

Design thinking process
Source

To put it simply, UX researcher duties are getting to know your users. But does it mean that you necessarily need to hire a professional to do only that? Do UX researchers tell designers what to do or do they just bring in insights based on user feedback?  Let’s clear things up.

UX researcher roles and responsibilities

UX researcher roles diagram

The main UX research respoinsibilities are to listen to the users, gather data from them, and translate it into valuable information for the design team

The UX research process consists of collecting, processing, and analyzing data, finding weak points in the product, suggesting ways to fix them, and testing solutions with the users to get real feedback. 

UX research tasks day to day include: 

  • defining goals, 
  • setting scope, 
  • making a plan
  • choosing the right research methods, 
  • recruiting users, 
  • communicating with them, 
  • writing research scripts, 
  • conducting the research itself (user interviews, usability testing, card sorting, data collection, and so on), 
  • organizing and analyzing the results, 
  • presenting reports. 

UX researchers work closely with UI/UX designers on suggesting changes and new solutions based on the findings of user research.

Now, here are some of the most common responsibilities taken from real user researcher job descriptions:

  • Design and execute custom research to support the objective of the business.
  • Collaborate with design team to define intent, development, testing, and refinement of prototypes.
  • Build user journeys and personas.
  • Design and execute a variety of research studies, including user testing, field studies, usability tests, concept tests, group discussions, and so on.
  • Unify quantitative data with qualitative data to help drive product and design decisions
  • Partner with design team, product managers, marketing and development teams to understand business needs, and design appropriate research studies to generate user-focused insights.

To illustrate with some real life examples, this is how GitHub Handbook defines the responsibilities of a UX researcher:

UX researcher responsibilities

UX researcher skills

The skillset of a UX researcher must be rather diverse, but there are not many complex technical skills. One of the most essential skills is the ability to see patterns in users’ behavior, which comes with experience, not just training. UX research roles imply one of those professions where “good soft skills” might play an even more important role than the hard skills.

UX researcher skills diagram
Image credit

Hard skills

  • Knowledge of user research techniques, such as usability testing, heuristic analysis, tree testing, eyetracking, and many more. See our list of essential UX research methods to fully grasp an idea.
  • Knowledge of data processing software (small projects can work just fine with Google Workspace, while big ones require complex software)
  • Usage of user research tools, such as Hotjar, Maze, Figma, and others. Check out this list of UX research tools recommended by our designers.
  • Visual communication (at least basic knowledge is important for communicating with designers and understanding how the elements of user interface work)

Soft skills

UX researcher soft skills illustration
Image credits
  • Communication skills. The success of UX research depends largely on the information obtained from direct communication with the users. The ability to express themselves clearly, pose correct questions, and endear people allows user researchers to get in good contact with the customers and get valuable insights.
  • Empathy sounds like an obvious skill for a person whose job is to understand other people better, but not all HR managers working in the ICT field give enough attention to this trait. Empathy is what helps a researcher notice every insecure move of a user during usability tests and understand the reasons behind it.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving helps to establish an unbiased approach to the research and the product.
  • Analytical skills are crucial to process large amounts of data gathered throughout the research and distill the most relevant information.

When do you need a UX researcher… 

There are cases when you need a UX researcher on your team and cases when other people can fulfill this role quite fine. In general, it's a good idea to consider cooperating with a UX research specialist, when:

  • You don't have a clear vision of your product and its future user base. Cooperating with a UX researcher early on can help you test your product idea and define its future direction.
  • You're stuck on your business strategy. The insights UX research brings can help you understand your customers’ expectations or frustrations. This way, you'll better on what areas you should focus.
  • If your product serves a diverse audience with complex user needs, a UX researcher can help uncover and prioritize these needs through in-depth user studies.
  • If your product is only developing or at crossroads and other UI/UX specialists on your team are not experienced enough to conduct a proper user research, obviously you should consider hiring a UX researcher.

…and when you don't 

Budget constraints, simple or smaller products are some of the reasons to skip hiring a UX researcher. But even for more complex products, sometimes going for a skilled UI/UX designer might be a better choice.

Often people come to UX research after having worked in a related field, such as UI/UX design or product design. Narrowing down the role helps them to deepen their expertise and move to working on bigger products. If you need more information to grasp the difference between UX designer and researcher, read our article what UX designers do.

While in huge companies there may be many UX researchers, in small startups it is common to have one person perform the role of both UI/UX designer and UX researcher. That is how we work at Eleken

And then you have Eleken

Our designers have expertise in both fields and thus can have a wholesome look at the project. In our case, the narrowing comes with the focus on one type of product: we work exclusively with SaaS products.

Our designers successfully conduct user research when client's needs call for it. For example, before redesigning SEO Crawl, we dived into user feedback on the previous version of the product. We also studied the online feedback about competitor products and found out that the most significant challenge users faced was the lack of customization. 

The results of user research allowed us to come up with the idea to build a customizable dashboard that can be adjusted to individual users’ requirements.

SEO Crawl screenshot

To sum up 

Alright, let's sum things up! We all know that getting inside the heads of your users is crucial when creating anything – and that's where UX researchers shine. They're the unsung heroes making sure your product doesn't just look good on paper but actually resonates with real people.

Feeling a bit lost in the product development maze? Don't sweat it – Eleken's got your back. Our team isn't just about making things look pretty; we dive deep into user feedback, scan the market, and dish out insights that make a real impact. Whether you need ongoing research or a one-time rescue mission before a redesign, Eleken is your go-to squad.

If you don't have the need for ongoing UX research and require it as a part of forming product strategy or before redesign, consider hiring a UI/UX design agency. Drop us a line and our skilled designers will both conduct research and implement its insights to breathe new life into your product.

Masha Panchenko

Author

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What Does a UX Researcher Do?

6

min to read

Table of contents
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In 2022, at least 750,000 openings for UX researchers were reported across the US. These days, spending money on user research is not something that only big companies do. It is the opposite: the vast majority of businesses, including tiny startups, just can’t afford to skip the UX research.

Knowing your users is a must. The cost of wrong assumptions would be much higher than the research cost. As a design agency, we always base our work on thorough research, and we are glad to see this trend as it aligns with our pragmatic approach to design.

So, what does a UX researcher do? Poetically speaking, saves your product from a tough clash with reality. In the design thinking framework, their job has mostly to do with the first stage of the design: emphasizing.

Design thinking process
Source

To put it simply, UX researcher duties are getting to know your users. But does it mean that you necessarily need to hire a professional to do only that? Do UX researchers tell designers what to do or do they just bring in insights based on user feedback?  Let’s clear things up.

UX researcher roles and responsibilities

UX researcher roles diagram

The main UX research respoinsibilities are to listen to the users, gather data from them, and translate it into valuable information for the design team

The UX research process consists of collecting, processing, and analyzing data, finding weak points in the product, suggesting ways to fix them, and testing solutions with the users to get real feedback. 

UX research tasks day to day include: 

  • defining goals, 
  • setting scope, 
  • making a plan
  • choosing the right research methods, 
  • recruiting users, 
  • communicating with them, 
  • writing research scripts, 
  • conducting the research itself (user interviews, usability testing, card sorting, data collection, and so on), 
  • organizing and analyzing the results, 
  • presenting reports. 

UX researchers work closely with UI/UX designers on suggesting changes and new solutions based on the findings of user research.

Now, here are some of the most common responsibilities taken from real user researcher job descriptions:

  • Design and execute custom research to support the objective of the business.
  • Collaborate with design team to define intent, development, testing, and refinement of prototypes.
  • Build user journeys and personas.
  • Design and execute a variety of research studies, including user testing, field studies, usability tests, concept tests, group discussions, and so on.
  • Unify quantitative data with qualitative data to help drive product and design decisions
  • Partner with design team, product managers, marketing and development teams to understand business needs, and design appropriate research studies to generate user-focused insights.

To illustrate with some real life examples, this is how GitHub Handbook defines the responsibilities of a UX researcher:

UX researcher responsibilities

UX researcher skills

The skillset of a UX researcher must be rather diverse, but there are not many complex technical skills. One of the most essential skills is the ability to see patterns in users’ behavior, which comes with experience, not just training. UX research roles imply one of those professions where “good soft skills” might play an even more important role than the hard skills.

UX researcher skills diagram
Image credit

Hard skills

  • Knowledge of user research techniques, such as usability testing, heuristic analysis, tree testing, eyetracking, and many more. See our list of essential UX research methods to fully grasp an idea.
  • Knowledge of data processing software (small projects can work just fine with Google Workspace, while big ones require complex software)
  • Usage of user research tools, such as Hotjar, Maze, Figma, and others. Check out this list of UX research tools recommended by our designers.
  • Visual communication (at least basic knowledge is important for communicating with designers and understanding how the elements of user interface work)

Soft skills

UX researcher soft skills illustration
Image credits
  • Communication skills. The success of UX research depends largely on the information obtained from direct communication with the users. The ability to express themselves clearly, pose correct questions, and endear people allows user researchers to get in good contact with the customers and get valuable insights.
  • Empathy sounds like an obvious skill for a person whose job is to understand other people better, but not all HR managers working in the ICT field give enough attention to this trait. Empathy is what helps a researcher notice every insecure move of a user during usability tests and understand the reasons behind it.
  • Critical thinking and problem solving helps to establish an unbiased approach to the research and the product.
  • Analytical skills are crucial to process large amounts of data gathered throughout the research and distill the most relevant information.

When do you need a UX researcher… 

There are cases when you need a UX researcher on your team and cases when other people can fulfill this role quite fine. In general, it's a good idea to consider cooperating with a UX research specialist, when:

  • You don't have a clear vision of your product and its future user base. Cooperating with a UX researcher early on can help you test your product idea and define its future direction.
  • You're stuck on your business strategy. The insights UX research brings can help you understand your customers’ expectations or frustrations. This way, you'll better on what areas you should focus.
  • If your product serves a diverse audience with complex user needs, a UX researcher can help uncover and prioritize these needs through in-depth user studies.
  • If your product is only developing or at crossroads and other UI/UX specialists on your team are not experienced enough to conduct a proper user research, obviously you should consider hiring a UX researcher.

…and when you don't 

Budget constraints, simple or smaller products are some of the reasons to skip hiring a UX researcher. But even for more complex products, sometimes going for a skilled UI/UX designer might be a better choice.

Often people come to UX research after having worked in a related field, such as UI/UX design or product design. Narrowing down the role helps them to deepen their expertise and move to working on bigger products. If you need more information to grasp the difference between UX designer and researcher, read our article what UX designers do.

While in huge companies there may be many UX researchers, in small startups it is common to have one person perform the role of both UI/UX designer and UX researcher. That is how we work at Eleken

And then you have Eleken

Our designers have expertise in both fields and thus can have a wholesome look at the project. In our case, the narrowing comes with the focus on one type of product: we work exclusively with SaaS products.

Our designers successfully conduct user research when client's needs call for it. For example, before redesigning SEO Crawl, we dived into user feedback on the previous version of the product. We also studied the online feedback about competitor products and found out that the most significant challenge users faced was the lack of customization. 

The results of user research allowed us to come up with the idea to build a customizable dashboard that can be adjusted to individual users’ requirements.

SEO Crawl screenshot

To sum up 

Alright, let's sum things up! We all know that getting inside the heads of your users is crucial when creating anything – and that's where UX researchers shine. They're the unsung heroes making sure your product doesn't just look good on paper but actually resonates with real people.

Feeling a bit lost in the product development maze? Don't sweat it – Eleken's got your back. Our team isn't just about making things look pretty; we dive deep into user feedback, scan the market, and dish out insights that make a real impact. Whether you need ongoing research or a one-time rescue mission before a redesign, Eleken is your go-to squad.

If you don't have the need for ongoing UX research and require it as a part of forming product strategy or before redesign, consider hiring a UI/UX design agency. Drop us a line and our skilled designers will both conduct research and implement its insights to breathe new life into your product.

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