Different UX research methods align with different phases of the product lifecycle. The earlier in the process UX research is incorporated, the greater the value it can deliver. When possible, focus your budget, time, and energy on Discovery and Explore research tasks. However, there is useful information to gather at any point in development.
In the Discover phase, you're looking to find out what you don't know and gain a better understand of actual needs. Discovery research is a critical risk-mitigating activity: when done well, it may prevent your team from making costly mistakes. In this phase, test your assumptions before you've invested in building anything. You are looking here to grow your understanding of, and articulate, the problem you are going to solve.
In the exploration phase, you are building a stronger understanding of the problem space and refining the design scope.
Test to make sure that what you have been building is going to hit the mark with your users.
Continually monitor and gather data to help understand existing problems and identify new ones.
When choosing a method, you will also need to consider any operating constraints. These may include budget, available tools, and top concerns.
If you can do only one thing, do qualitative (think-aloud) usability testing. Nielsen-Norman Group contends that this is the most effective method to improve usability.
- Landscape of UX research methods
- Base strategy on leading, not lagging, indicators
- De-risk innovation by making smaller bets
- Qualitative research creates mental models about the problem space.
- Qualitative researchers care more about data saturation than sample size
Rohrer, Christian. “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods.” Nielsen Norman Group (blog). Accessed October 13, 2020. https://www.nngroup.com/articles/which-ux-research-methods/.