While UX research is generally known to be time consuming and resource intensive, here are some quick and effective guerilla research methods to boost your design process with a limited budget.
Time is of the Essence
An inherent problem with traditional user research is that it tends to be time intensive. Research often involves meeting with multiple users, requiring the time-consuming steps of recruiting, managing schedules, perhaps traveling, the actual session time, the downtime between sessions, and that’s just one half of the story. User research generates a large quantity of data that researchers must summarize, write up, analyze, and report clearly to their internal stakeholders.
Before we start exploring different guerilla methods, let’s talk about the types of research methods used in the UX process. There are two main types of research methods in UX:
These methods differ in how data is collected and thus, the types of questions they are best suitable to answer. Qualitative methods gather data based on direct observation and best answer questions about “how” or “why”. It can be used to gain understanding of users and their behaviors/motivations. Quantitive methods gather data based on observing indirectly (through survey or analytics) and best answer questions about “how many/how much”. They can be used to prioritize resources/ figure out where is the greatest opportunity.
Overall, user testing is useful once you have some initial ideas and a set of hypotheses to test. Having a project plan in place, rather than gathering a large quantity of data blindly.
Card sorting is a well known, inexpensive method of finding patterns in how users group information. In a card sorting session, users organize topics into categories that make sense to them and may also label these groups in ways that make sense to them. This approach is widely used to determine how people understand and categorize information.
To conduct a card sort, you can use physical cards (pieces of paper/index cards) or an online card-sorting software equivalent. Card sorting will help you understand your users' expectations and understanding of your topics, and then determine the appropriate information architecture for your project.
For companies that may not have a dedicated UX designer or design team, an expert review is one useful way to get a pair of fresh eyes on your user experience and conduct a review to look out for major issues under the lens of an experienced UX practitioner.
The goal of a UX expert review is to study the existing UI/UX to see if it aligns with the company’s intended goals. Expert reviews ensure there’s nothing major you’ve overlooked by being too close to the design. This method is comparatively less expensive and time intensive than running a full on set of usability testing.
Remote User Testing
Remote user testing through unmoderated studies (one without a researcher/designer to guide the user along) is one way to lessen costs and increase the quantity of research gathered. UX research testing software such as InVisionApp, where you can have users test your prototypes directly from their iPhone or workstation while recording their interactions, seeing their faces, and hearing their voices.
Use social media (Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, etc.) or other tools along with web analytics to get a large number of targeted users to give feedback. This differs from traditional research testing methods in that the testing is carried out by a number of different users from different places, not directly recruited by the UX team. The software is put to test under diverse realistic platforms which makes it more reliable, cost-effective and scalable.
When your design team faces constraints in time or money, remember that UX research can be cheap, agile and relatively effortless; no more excuses for not incorporating it into your design process!