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How Do I Choose The Right UX Research Method?

Our quiz can help you get a research method recommendation in under five clicks.

Getting started with user research can be intimidating. Even for experienced pros, there are so many available methods to answer research questions, it can be hard to know which UX research method to use for different research questions, budgets, time frames, and more. In this article, we’ll help you learn how to choose the right UX research method and give a brief overview of some of the methods you can use. To caveat, there’s a lot of nuance when choosing your methods, so our hope here is to present a starting point you can build on, adding your own experience and intuition.

How do I choose the right UX research method? Start with a research question

Choosing the right research method for the job starts with choosing the right research question. Where are you in the product development process? What do you hope to learn in your research? How will you know when you’ve learned it? What will you use the feedback you gain from research to build? 

All of these questions can help you zero in on your main research question. The key to a good research question is choosing something specific, actionable, and practical. It should be specific enough that you will know when you have found an answer, practical in that you could reasonably find answers to it in the scope of a research project (that scope could be large or small depending on your question), and actionable, so you can act on the answer that you find.

Here are some examples of specific, actionable, and practical research questions: 

“Does our pricing page accurately address our customer's questions about our pricing?”
“How do 40-50 year olds choose vacation destinations?”
“What tools do millennials use to learn how to manage their finances?”

The key to doing great research is taking the time at the beginning to choose the right research question. Once you’re clear on what you need to learn from research and have taken the time to ensure the question you’re asking is specific, actionable, and practical, you’ve set yourself up for a successful study. 

Choosing the right research method is then a balance of how you can best answer your research question with the budget, time, and resources you have available. For example, if you want to learn about the way marketing professionals buy new analytics software, you have a few options available. You can do an ethnographic study to learn about how marketing professionals operate in their everyday lives and the constraints they face. You can do a diary study and ask marketing professionals to document their process over a few weeks. You can do user interviews and ask specific questions about the last time marketing professionals purchased analytics software. 

All of these will help you answer your research question, but which one you choose likely comes down to how big your budget, timeframe, and team is. An ethnographic study takes a month or more to organize and execute, can be expensive to recruit for, and involves your team spending weeks embedded with your participants. A diary study also takes a few weeks to organize and execute, depending on how long you want to track your participants. Diary studies also leave you with tons of raw data to analyze. User interviews are the quickest way to get an answer, but won’t give you the same depth as in-context insights like ethnographic studies or diary studies can provide.

UX research method quiz

Want to get some recommended methods fast? Our method picker quiz is here to help! It asks a few questions and can give you a recommended method in under five clicks. Of course we can’t guarantee the results will be a perfect match for your needs in four clicks, but hopefully we can point you in the right direction. 

The method picker will either provide form information for you in the form of Launch Kits, Field Guide chapters, or resources from our blog. Launch Kits come complete with education on the method, a recruiting project to quickly launch a study on User Interviews, and a bundle of templates to make using the method as streamlined as possible. Field Guide chapters are full of all the information you need to know to hit the ground running with a method you are new to or need to brush up on. 

UX research methods

There are many UX research methods you can use to get feedback from your users. We’ll outline a few of the most common here, though there are always new methods and specific tests to try; maybe you’ll even invent your own mixed method!

Carrie Boyd
Former Content Writer at UI

Carrie Boyd is a UXR content wiz, formerly at User Interviews. She loves writing, traveling, and learning new things. You can typically find her hunched over her computer with a cup of coffee the size of her face.

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