Just what IS User Experience Research?

First let's list the aliases: User Research, Usability, UR, Market Research, Design Research...I could go on. The wide variety of names illustrates a problem with the profession--people don't know what the heck User Research is, especially when compared to its more established sister professions.

User Research is a collection of social science research methods which are used specifically to help inform the creation of usable and engaging online experiences. It's this overarching research goal that defines the profession more than anything. Market Research for example uses a similar toolset, but it does not solely focus on understanding the online experience.

While the synonyms above are often used interchangeably, the term "usability" is worth breaking out because it's actually one of the methods that make up the User Research toolkit. Additional methods include card sorts, surveys, focus groups, contextual inquiry and others. More on those later.

Hopefully this brief overview will help create some context for the profession and set the stage for future posts. Of course, if you have a different take, weigh in!

2 comments:

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