User Experience (UX) Researcher

What Do People Think You Do?

Many people have never heard of UX Research. However, of those who have, many assume UX Research is strictly usability testing for websites. They often don’t understand there are many research methods (from one-on-one interviews to focus groups to surveys to site visits to usage data analysis) and stages of research (exploratory, concept testing, and usability testing). They also often don’t understand that UX Research can be applied more broadly (i.e., to any product, process, or service), not only to websites or web products.

What Do You Really Do?

As a UX Researcher, I work to understand users’ behaviors, needs, and motivations. I identify their core needs and problems and advocate on behalf of users to product, design, and engineering. We use both qualitative and quantitative research methods, including one-on-one interviews, surveys, focus groups, card sorting tasks, contextual inquiry, and product usage data.

There are three main stages of research – exploratory, concept testing, and usability. In exploratory research, I conduct foundational or background research with users to learn about their current processes, problems, and pain points to identify new opportunities where my company can provide value. Based on exploratory research, we better understand the topic area and can begin prototyping a new feature or product.

For concept testing, a designer will assemble a basic prototype, and I’ll show it to users to collect feedback. In this phase, we learn if we’re on the right track and are solving users’ issues and pain points. Based on their feedback, we iterate and refine the prototype to make it as intuitive and useful as possible.

After a few rounds of concept testing, we will move into usability testing. Here we will have a robust prototype that users can interact with. We will give them tasks to complete within the product and see if they can complete them. During the research sessions, we can identify any confusing or unclear elements (i.e., text, navigation, flow, etc).

As a Fortune 500 company researcher, my days would mainly consist of scoping, organizing, and conducting research. I would meet with Product Owners and Designers to discuss upcoming research projects, including research goals, business objectives, and research questions. The designer would develop a prototype based on our discussions, and then I would develop a screener to recruit participants for research. Depending on the target user, I might use our internal database to recruit participants, or I might pay a recruiting firm to find participants for me. Then I would run research sessions with 5-8 people. Next, I would review my notes to identify key themes and trends in the data, and I would compile a research report and set up a readout with my stakeholders to discuss the findings and how we should act on them.

A Day In The Life

I currently work at a medium-sized start-up. I’m the first UX Researcher, and I’m working to develop the research practice. This role is more strategic and cross-functional than my previous one at a Fortune 500 company.

On a typical day, I might review product usage data in Pendo to see if people are using our newly released features.

Next, I might join a kick-off meeting for a new project in which we’re adding a new feature to an existing product. The product owner, designer, product marketing manager, and engineers who will be working on the project will all attend so we can discuss the timeline, scope, and details of the project. These meetings are helpful in making sure we’re all on the same page and understand the project.

Next, I might interview a client to collect their feedback on our newly launched product. I’m curious to learn their high-level thoughts after having access to the tool for a few weeks, what their main use cases are for the tool, and how they use the tool to help them complete their daily work.

What’s The Average Income?


What Education If Any Is Needed?

Most UX Researchers have some Psychology, Anthropology, or Cognitive Science background and a good understanding of research methods.

Some Researchers have Masters and PhDs, but they’re not explicitly required. However, the field is very competitive, especially for entry-level roles.

Something Important To Know

UX Research is a great profession! We intimately know the user and advocate on their behalf to build better products. It’s a really interesting role, combining business, strategy, and research. We’re paid well and have a pretty flexible schedule. I’m usually given general timelines for the quarter, and then I can control my day-to-day schedule.

Collaboration, communication, persuasion, critical thinking, and problem-solving are all important characteristics of the role.

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