Landscape of UX Research Methods

UX research methods can be organized according to a 3-dimensional framework with the following axes:

  • Attitudinal vs behavioural
  • Qualitative vs quantitative
  • Context of use

Attitudinal vs behavioural

Attitudinal research uncovers what people say, or their stated beliefs; behavioural research uncovers what people actually do. Generally, observing actual user behaviour in context is preferable to attitudinal data in user research. However, attitudinal methods—including card sorts and surveys—can nevertheless yield valuable insights. Some methods, including usability testing and field studies, may combine attitudinal and behavioural data.

Qualitative vs quantitative

Qualitative data-gathering generally involves direct observation of the subject, whereas quantitative data-gathering gathers information indirectly through measurement, analytics, or surveys. In general, qualitative methods are used to answer questions of why or how; quantitative method are used to uncover how many or how much.

Context of use

Finally, research methods can be classified based on the degree to which participants are engaged in actual use of the product or service. These may include:

  • Natural or near-natural use of the product
  • Scripted use of the product
  • Not using the product
  • A hybrid

When studying natural use, care should be taken to ensure that the environment is as close to the actual use case as possible. While this leaves more to chance, it improves the validity of the research. Scripted use of the product involves asking the participant to focus on specific elements or tasks, in accordance with the study's goals. Methods not involving the product in use are generally used to help uncover issues apart from usage or usability, such as cultural factors. Hybrid methods combine aspects of all of the above and may include participatory design methods or concept testing.

!Landscape of User Research Methods.png



Rohrer, Christian. “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods.” Nielsen Norman Group (blog). Accessed October 13, 2020.