This huge responsibility requires them to realize the importance of finding a balance between different types of data like interview anecdotes, passive observations and A/B testing outcomes. The following is a categorization of the basic insights that a UX researcher needs to gain from his research. These insights are crucial to get confident that you are painting a full picture. The first type of insights needs to be tackled even before the process begins, and then you would probably need to revisit them a number of times. The next four types need consideration after the process begins, and would be repeated throughout it.
1. Cultural Insights
These are the foundational insights as they provide a perspective to the UX researcher. They enable him to view how individual choices and market trends are evolving. They can be retrieved from market trend reports. You can get these reports from your marketing team or some business magazines like Forbes or The Economist. These insights illuminate for you the environment around your service or product. For example, you might find that your customers are:
Renting out more than ever
Paying using mobile
Spending less money on buying things
You will then see that these cultural shifts have created trends that have led to the products like Class Pass, Uber, Slack, Venmo and more. So reading reports is the starting point of learning market trends.
2. Observational Insights
Observational insights are the data you gather from passively observing your customers’ experience or interaction with your product. This type of observation does not involve any interaction between you and the customer. Suppose you are conducting research for an airline, and the problem statement says, “How to improve the waiting experience at the airport?” In order to understand the waiting travelers’ experience, you will need to spend several hours at the airport, at least once. This observation is important because often the people won't like to tell you the reality of their experience, due to a number of reasons. You will have to observe their actions or gestures to understand what they feel about your service.
3. Personal Insights
These are the insights based on your own experience with your service or product. Personal experience is really useful as it will increase your empathy for the users. This will later help you better understand them during interviews. But you should not rely too much on these insights. Your personal insights might be representing only a small part of your users’ needs and goals. You might be missing many of the pain points experienced by your users. So you will understand the reality only by developing hypothesis and then conducting further research involving your customers.
4. Anecdotal Insights
Anecdotal insights are the subjective stories narrated by users, and interpreted by the researcher. They can be derived from usability tests, interviews, surveys, reviews or other types of feedback. Here you will need to spend a great deal of your time collecting and analyzing the data. Let’s go back to our airport example. You have observed the waiting travelers, and you have also waited at the airport yourself. Now it’s time to interview the travelers who are currently waiting, or have waited in the past. Try to make them speak naturally, and avoid the questions prompting just a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The questions should be non-leading and open-ended. You shouldn’t ask, “Do you feel annoyed waiting at an airport?” Instead, ask them “What do you feel about waiting at an airport?” Although anecdotal insights don’t paint the full picture, it is widely believed in the UX community that they matter the most in the research. They tell you what customers say about you, and your job is to listen, understand and respond to them.
5. Behavioural Insights
These insights usually come from a data analytics platform (such as Google Analytics) or an experience monitoring tool (such as UXCam), or both. They are different from the observational insights which are unfiltered raw data on paper, unless the researcher processes it. Data analytics is the collection and analysis of usage patterns and trends that contribute to further research and effective business strategies. Experience monitoring platforms are integrated into your website or product to record, and later playback the user sessions for you. This enables you to have a direct view of your user's experience, and assess any frictions and pain points involved therein. Experience monitoring actually provides you a visual display of the data that you have probably already collected through analytics. Synthesizing the Insights
It is always important to cross check the findings of your qualitative research with the behavioural insights. For example, if five users tell you that they have never used a certain feature, you should then validate this anecdotal finding with the number of clicks on that feature recorded in data analytics. You will usually find the qualitative data aligning with the quantitative, but sometimes there will be discrepancies prompting you to further investigate the problem statement.
In conclusion, as UX researchers, we consistently need to collect data to make design decisions, and then keep iterating. The information gained from each of these 5 pillars enables us to equip our team with actionable insights, which ultimately ensures that we provide successful products or services that align with the latest market trends and user needs.