User Experience Research (UXR) Foundations


What is UXR?

What exactly is ‘experience’? It is not quantitative data. An experience is a subjective phenomenon that includes three main things: sensations, emotions and thoughts. At any moment our experience build by everything we sense (heat, pleasure, tension, etc.), every emotion we feel (love, fear, anger, etc.) and whatever thoughts we rise in our mind. The flow of the user’s subjective experiences when they interact with a product is known as User Experience.

Good User Experience means when the user interacts with technology, they can do what they want to do and need to do without difficulty and without any frustration.

To provide good user experience, the products and services should be designed in a way to fit the needs of users. To design a better user experience, there is a need of thorough understanding of users, their needs, goals, and the context in which they will interact with the product and how well the product catering their needs. The process done for this kind of deeper understanding of the user is known as User Experience Research (UXR).

The objective of UXR is understanding everything relevant between User and Product. It's a general awareness of the user, not only their needs, wants, and motivations but also their environment, what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, and more. UXR allows product builders to take a critical look at what they're creating and figure out whether or not it'll generate the desired outcome because we all don’t have the same mental model.


All don’t Have Same Mental Model


A mental model is a simulation in one’s mind about how something works in the real world. There are two kinds of mental models to consider. System models and interaction models. System models are models of how things work. Interaction models are models of how to use or interact with something.


Product builders will have strong system models but typically have weak interaction models. For example, Generally, Programmers know how exactly their software applications work computationally but they do not exactly understand how other people will use and understand their software application. Vice versa Users can develop very strong interaction models but typically have weak system models. For example, a person can be a great best PC game player but have no idea how it computationally works and made.


From a systems model point of view, Product builders will think they had made best product and it will work, but if their product violates the well-established conventional interaction model and then the result will be bad user experience.


There will be always a natural Gap between product builder’s system model and the user’s interaction model. We can build a bridge the gap between these two groups by deducing the interaction model of the user. If product builders understand the mental model of the user, then they can alter their mental model accordingly.

One of the biggest motivations to understand the user’s interaction model is that it can help save development costs and time because it helps product builders that they are building the right thing which is well resonating with users. In the business perspective, understanding user interaction model prevents mistakes in the design stage itself and so reworks after deployment can be prevented. In a competitive perspective, new opportunities can be discovered. Understanding the Interaction model uncovers the true needs of the user, so one can put his valuable time & effort only on features valuable to users. So Product builders can earn more passionate customers.


Deducing the Interaction Model


The understanding mental model of users is not an easy task. It requires a certain skill set and mindset to crack it. It might look cakewalk, one can guess it, one can assume it, but guesses and assumptions will not work every time. We need to follow a certain scientifically proven way with empathy to deduce the interaction model of the user. Many who read this came across many methods like observational notes, In-context interview, persona creation and customer journey map etc. But all these user research methods without sensitivity is nothing.


So, my chief formula to find Interaction model is User Experience (or) Interaction Model = User Activity Data x User Sensitivity. If we want to find the user’s interaction model, we should collect user activity data and then interpret it with user’s sensitivity. Interpreting user activity with the user’s sensitivity helps to identify the logic behind the user activity which helps to deduce the overall interaction model of the user

What exactly are ‘User Activity Data’? They mean not only Quantitative data like demography, user screen time, number of clicks, number of visits, etc; but also any important insights which can be computationally tracked like mouse scrolling patterns, user’s interests etc.


And What is User Sensitivity?. It means understanding how users detect or respond to stimuli when they interacting with the product. They are not empirical data but it is a qualitative thing which influences user experiences to a greater extent. To find User sensitivity my formula is User Sensitivity = observation x Empathy. Firstly, paying attention and observing user’s sensations, emotions and thoughts. Then secondly experiencing these sensations, emotions and thoughts in user’s shoes. Granted, you should not allow everything you imagine in user’s shoes sweep you away from logic. Yet you should be open to multiple interpretations, and permit them to change your opinion.


There are many popular research methods to understand user sensitivity and collect user activity data, I Hope, In upcoming days I will discuss these research methods and how our human mind works.


AUTHOR:

SANTHOSH GANDHI (UX Researcher)



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