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The Ultimate Guide to UX Research Methods

Look no further: This deep dive has how-tos, best practices, and prime advice on key approaches to user research.

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Allison Corr

A human centered practitioner's job is more than just data gathering—think collaboration building, workshop leading, budgeting, hiring, and generally advocating for insights. But the core of many UXRs' roles is still research.

This roundup pulls together People Nerds's best resources for the core research approaches used by mixed-methods thinkers. Even if you're not sure which method to use, this guide will help you get started with the foundations.

Bookmark it for later, because this one is chock-full of information.

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Empathy-driven experiences start with stories—human stories. Finding folks to share their perspective, experiences, and document their highs and lows is a critical (but often rushed) phase of the research process. Use these pieces to balance ethics with speed, disclosure with safety, and create a relationship with your ultimate boss: the user.

✔ DEIB and inclusivity

For Inclusive Research, Expansive Terminology is KeyDiverse research is more than just age, location, and gender. Best Buy shares how they have expanded their scope—and plan to keep iterating.Field report
How JPMorgan Chase is Formalizing DEI Best Practices in Their ResearchSee how a consumer-focused UX team leveraged remote qualitative research tools to scale their inclusive experience practices.Field report
How (and When) Should We Ask About Ethnicity? Use These Principles for More Inclusive Demographic-GatheringWe re-designed the way our participants discuss their ethnicity within our platform. Here’s what our research taught us about how users want to report their multi-racial identity.Article
5 Experts Offer Strategies for Ethical Participant ManagementWe asked experts for their best advice for moving from "transactional" to "cooperative" participant engagement.Article
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✔ Participant challenges and advice

Use These "Pre-Recruiting" Rituals to Pick the Right Participants Every TimeGet the right research participants by understanding your project's goals and target users.Article
Work More Effectively with These 9 “Difficult Participant” Personality TypesEven if you've done everything right in recruiting, you might still end up with a participant you find difficult to work with. These tactics should enable you to keep things running smoother.Article
Defining the "Value" of Being a Research ParticipantResearch participants (scouts) share the top five non-monetary motivations they have for participating in user research, and how you can move from transactional to relational in your dscout designs.Article
Stop Fearing the “Professional" Participant (They’ll Benefit Your Next Study)Our concerns about bias may lead us to reject our most engaged panelists.Article
Using Private Research Panels for Ongoing, Rapid Customer FeedbackCXR Research Advisor Lauren Duquette highlights the advantages of using private research panels and how to build one on dscout.Article
5 Major Lessons from 1000+ Participant ScreenersOver the past five years, I’ve seen and worked on thousands of screeners. Here’s what I’ve learned.Article
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Flexible, templatable, and endlessly useful, a survey should be a well-worn tool in any UXR's kit. From lightweight approaches like NPS or customer feedback to longitudinal journey-mapping aligned engagements, a good survey can bring scale—plus just the right amount of quant to ensure insight activation and ultimate user impact.

✔ Data analysis

What is the Best Way to Measure and Analyze Your Data? A Quick and Easy GuideUnderstanding the range of analysis options for certain types of data can unlock your research's potential—and you don't even need a data science degree, either.Article
Triangulate User Research Data for Better OutcomesSometimes you don't have the luxury to work with large sample sizes. Using triangulation in a strategic way can help make up for that.Article
Use These "Quick Quant" Research Methods to Back Up Your Qual FindingsYou can't actually "quantify qual." But pulling in quant data to support you qual findings may make your results more impactful.Article
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✔ Approach and practice

Blend Surveys and Interviews for the Best of Both WorldsGo beyond mixed methods and blend methods. We show you how to make the most of surveys and interviews, combined.Article
A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Better Research QuestionsSay goodbye to doomed studies with invalid research questions, follow these tips to have a clear, solid start to your project.Article
How to Measure User Satisfaction (Without the NPS)See why the NPS can lead to unclear results and what you should use instead to better understand how pleased (or unhappy) your users are.Article
Spooky Sample Sizes: Choosing “The Right” Number of Research ParticipantsIt’s easy to feel intimidated when people question your sample size. The trick (or treat) is choosing the right method and backing up your data with additional research.Article
5 Tips to Increase the Impact of Your UX Surveys from Lauren IsaacsonUXRs are responding to a rapidly changing experience world, and with it comes mixing methodologies to explain the most of the picture. Go from stale to stellar with these tips.Article
Writing Next-Level Surveys: How to Get "Story Data" from Static QuestionsSurveys sometimes get a bad rap (and for good reason). Here are a few ways you can level up your survey game.Article
How to Write (Better) Survey Questions: Systems for Collecting Clean and Meaningful DataWrite survey questions that get the insights you need with this simple framework.Article
The Simple Way to Design a Standout UX Research SurveySurveys are one of the most reliable tools in a researcher's toolbox. Here's how to design one to help validate your qualitative insights.Article
A Simplified, Mixed Methods Roadmap: How to Marry Quant + Qual for More Insightful ResultsHere are a few easy ways to validate your qualitative data, or dig deeper into the “why” behind your quantitative metrics.Article
Podcast Episode 4: Data Decisions (w/ Dr. Peter K. Enns)Cornell Professor and Chief Data Scientist, Dr. Peter K. Enns knows a thing or two about rigorous studies. We walk through an overview of some of his tips.Article / Podcast episode
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Interviews and focus groups

Nothing beats the sensation of sitting across from someone and chatting about their experiences. From generative "How might you?" sequences to task-oriented usability studies, interviews (and focus groups) are a rich and reliable way to capture feedback and information to make smarter, more human experience decisions.

17 Pro Tips to Perfect One-on-One InterviewsMake the most of your user research session with these tactics meant to improve prep, flow, and evaluation.Article
6 Common Mistakes to Avoid During Qualitative InterviewsEven the most experienced interviewers fall victim to interrupting a participant or asking a leading question.Article
Elevate Your Moderated Research with an Interview GuideDon’t let moderated research get the best of you, we’ve found your secret weapon. Interview guides keep key questions at the forefront and ensure your best insights are never cut short.Article
Try These Approaches to Interview Note-Taking (Your Future Self Will Thank You)Save time in analysis, and dedicate more attention to your participants, with these approaches to note-taking.Article + template
The Jobs to be Done Interviewing Style: Who are our Users Trying to Become?How this popular framework can guide your user interviews.Article + video
The Interview Balancing Act: How to Build Rapport with ParticipantsIt’s tricky to stay completely neutral and keep participants engaged, but over-excitement can lead to dishonest answers. Use these tips to find the right mix of the two.Article
The Art (and Importance) of Building RapportConnecting with our users not only opens them up for more discussion, it makes them feel safe, secure, and ready to be vulnerable.Q&A
3 Focus Group Alternatives To Garner Rich, Qual InsightsAre focus groups really the gold standard to gather qual insights? Here are three alternatives for your next project.Article
When a Group Interview is Actually a Good IdeaGroup interviews or focus groups are often a poor fit for a project. But when your users' real-world environment calls for a group setting, this method is a powerful tool.Article
Use Body Language to Strengthen Your UXR InterviewsWhat is often a subconscious act can have unexpected implications on your research. Here's how to use body language to everyone's advantage.Article
Perfect the Art of the Interview—with the Expert InterviewerNew York Times Magazine columnist David Marchese breaks down the art of conversation.Q&A
Dig Deeper on 1-1 Interviews with Insightful Follow-Up QuestionsIt's easy to miss out on golden opportunities during generative research without pushing further.Article
How Relish Works Used dscout to Address the Rapidly Changing Restaurant IndustryThe restaurant industry is complex and continually changing. Here's how Relish Works and dscout teamed together to better understand the food service employee experience—through 400 rapid-fire interviews.Field report
Listening Beyond the LabXimena Vengoechea literally wrote the book on listening. Here's her advice for richer conversations—both in and outside of the workplace.Q&A
Beyond the 1:1 Interview: Involved, Engaged Remote Moderated ResearchHere are some advantages you may not have considered, some methodologies you might not have tried, and some best practices you should lean on, when advancing your remote moderated research practice.Article
Try These Tactics When Working With Unengaged Research ParticipantsAvoid dreaded silences and one-word answers. Here are 14 tactics for turning an unengaged participant into one who leaves a positive impact.Article
Get Answers Beyond “It’s Fine”: Try ACV LadderingUse the ACV laddering method to go beyond asking "why?" and better understand your participants' values and rationales.Article
See Your Product from Your Participant's Perspective. Try a "Walk-the-Store" Interview.Use this "show-don't-tell" remote interviewing technique for insight into your users' workflow.Article
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Unmoderated methods

Research platforms have grown in importance and rigor alongside orgs' own maturity. These platforms offer a flexible and powerful way to extend reach, improve visibility, and manage concurrent projects. dscout's own platform supports many of the following use cases. But even if you're not a customer, tomorrow's UXR will need to be remote and mobile fluent.

A Comprehensive Guide to Remote User Research: How to Unearth Essential InsightsThis guide is a true start-to-finish look at effective, efficient, and powerful remote user research. By the time you finish it, you'll feel confident tackling almost any research question or methodology remotely.Article + downloadable PDF
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Setting Up Unmoderated Generative ResearchEverything you need to know to prepare for your next unmoderated study from choosing a research question, to writing the survey parts.Article
How to Optimize Unmoderated User TestsYou can't be everywhere at once. That's why unmoderated user testing might be just the thing to scale your research.Article
10 Exciting (and Underutilized) Strategies for Remote, Unmoderated ResearchBreak out of your methodological rut! Here are a few novel tactics for getting rich insights from remote research.Article
How to Conduct a Diary Study: A Start-to-Finish GuideIf you want to see your participants up close and in-context—diary studies should be a part of your methodological toolkit. Here's how to run one with fewer hiccups and more impact.Article + downloadable PDF
Websites, Apps, Omnichannel: Researching the Full Digital Experience (+ Sample Study Designs)Users switch between desktop and mobile seamlessly—so why do we study them in a silo? Here are a few qual research tactics that'll help you uncover the complete digital picture.Article
More, Broader, Faster: A Brief Intro to Effective Remote ResearchHere’s a succinct, back-to-basics primer on how to maximize the impact and efficiency of your next remote study.Article
Come Together: Reasons to Include Participatory Design in Your Research ProcessStrategies for working with your participants beyond interviews and why their partnership is extremely valuable.Article
Here’s How to Make your Study Design Remote-Mobile ReadyRemote mobile research can get you some powerful data—but to gather it effectively, you'll need to shift your study design. Here's how to set yourself up for success.Article
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Other approaches

It never hurts to have extra tools in your box. Between competitive analysis, usability testing, A/B testing and day in the life studies, you can round out your UXR skills to tailor the study at hand.

Improve Your Competitive Analysis with Strategic User Research TechniquesCompetitive analysis benefits many stakeholders. Here’s how to manage a competitive analysis end-to-end—with better results.Article
When Usability Testing Has Done Its Job, Consider Visual Testing NextUsability testing has its time and place—but sometimes it can't compare with effective visual testing.Article
A/B Testing for User Researchers: A Low-Lift Way to Answer Quick Product QuestionsAdd A/B testing to your "save time, solve the problem" arsenal. Here's what you need to know to conduct your first test.Article
How to Conduct An Effective Card Sort: A Comprehensive GuideIf you want to understand how your users process and categorize information, card sorting is the method to use. Here's a primer on how to get started.Article
Day in the Life Studies: A Unique Method for Gathering User ContextUse this immersive study to dictate a direction for future projects and get a better understanding of who your user is.Article
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Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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