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Is User Research Necessary?

Web designers know the need to design for the users. Unfortunately, some web designers tend to build websites based on something that they would like. There is nothing complete wrong with it as long as it puts the users at the center. It stands to reason that being a professional designer means designing for the target audience, highlighting the importance of user research. Here are some ways to do a user research.


User research – the often neglected aspect

Users has the power to inform what needs to be changed.

User research sits comfortably untouched between market and usability research without realizing that it can be the single most invaluable tool to define and structure a website. Unfortunately, even the web designers treat web usability as a statistic or a blatant point in a static checklist. It shouldn’t be.

For web designers who think this way, you are missing out useful methods and thereby ideas to create a user-centric site. Yes, ideas come in various places but the tendency for any designer is to employ previously used designs or copy from the competitors. Such approach can backfire.

Good thing there are methods that drive designs and help the designers to break free from the assumptions and preconceptions. Recognizing and understanding the context of use, perhaps in a natural setting, is most appropriate when redesigning a website. Remember that the Internet tends to be consumed as an essential part of the lives of the people.

People – your users – has the power to inform you what needs to be changed to make everything better.

With this, every aspect of the new site must fit the lives of the users somehow. This can drive the designers to make and use only the elements that the users will find useful to improve the situations of the users. For redesigns to work, this means identifying barriers and determining how the new site had to overcome such barriers.

Further, the usual complaint of users is the website fails to provide them with the information that they are looking for. This means this website is not structured based on the expectations of the users. Perhaps, the website is built around the assumption of the owner on how people might look for things. Let’s reverse the idea.

Before any web design Philippines or redesign project starts, research as to who the target audience and how they are going to use the site must be conducted. Are the users male or female? Young or adult? Wealthy and time-rich? How do they consume digital information – desktop, laptop, mobile or multi-screen? At home, at work or on-the-go?

The answers to these questions will inform the design of the website itself. For instance, if you’ve discovered that your users go online during snatched moments, you might as well instruct the web designer to make the layout as simple as possible. With this, the users may find the information that they are searching for quickly.

Specifically, these methods are applicable for websites waiting to be redesigned. Most of the methods require the participation of the current users of the website.

Survey and interview

Questionnaires dig deeper on the actual experiences as users explore the site. Interviews dig deeper into the reasons and explanations behind the experiences.

Survey uses either structured, unstructured or mixed-form questionnaire. The interview, which can be one-to-one or focus group, is usually conducted after the survey. Questionnaires can be used to dig deeper on the actual experiences while exploring the site while interviews are used in understanding the reasons and explanations behind the experiences.

Upon getting more detailed answers from the users themselves and analyzing the data, it would be easier to decide on the kind of experiences that the site should be offering instead.


Contextual inquiry

Contextual inquiry helps in discerning the users’ pain points while accessing the site.

Contextual inquiry refers to the process of observing what people do, and not necessarily what they say they are doing. You will see how long it would take for any user to complete a particular task while on the site (e.g. finding the price of the products). The perceived and actual time of a task completion vary significantly.

In most instances also, you can discern the users’ pain points in accessing the website including which pages are overlooked and which are deliberately ignored. Fundamentally, the relative importance of content is subjective, but knowing what actual value the users are looking for any website makes a difference.

A contextual interview may be conducted spontaneously or after completing the exercise. The exercise can be also recorded and discussed later. Task scenarios can be provided for the users to perform.

Contextual inquiries help in the providing value to the users in just a few clicks. Also, the process highlights what and which  contents should the site include.



Diary study

Diary studies help in understanding interactions.

Diary study is a self-administered process where participants are asked to keep a log of what they do while on the site. Participants may put new entries as encountered or within a pre-agreed interval (weekly, bi-weekly, bi-monthly, etc.).

Diary entries can be captured in various ways such as email diaries, Twitter posts, SMS, Google doc entries, or a combination of these. Paper diaries are okay, but commitment is hard to come by.

Entries can be problem reports in addition to the actual accounts of site interaction. What’s (device used, activity or task, feelings and setting) and when’s (date and time, activity or task and duration) are typically recorded on the entries. At the end of the test period, users can be interviewed to dig deeper on the how’s and why’s.

Diary studies help in understanding how the users interact with the site and whether the site has a good fit with the daily lives of the users.


For many websites, it is often difficult to work out the people’s expectations of the contents and features to be set out. Being a part of the company, or the redesign project team per se, means that you think differently from the users albeit being a user yourself and compared to those who are not directly involved.

Getting into the mind of the users who are looking for something in your site is the secret. The methods outlined above will gain you several potential ways on how the site should be restructured. More importantly, you will discover approaches your users take towards the functions and contents. Then, build out logically from there. That’s how you rebuild a website.


Image credits: Hype4.com | UXBooth.com

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