UX Research for discovery

Photo by Noble Mitchell on Unsplash

Discovery phase

The first phase in the UX Research process is Discover. At this stage we will try to understand the users’ needs, and also we will try to discover the unknown, so we can be able to contribute with solutions to problems that users are still facing.

  • User interviews
  • Diary studies (field studies)
  • Competitive usability evaluation

Discover’s previous considerations

Since this phase takes place at the beginning of a UX Research project, and we are just barely starting to realise its context, it is really common that an unexperienced researcher, when facing a notorious level of ambiguity or uncertainty, leads them to design an investigation plan that is too broad and not too defined.

  • Answer to the following questions: What are stakeholders interested in knowing about the user, other than the business part? Which questions are they expecting to answer through research?
  • Have a teamwork mindset: What do all the other professionals involved in the project need to know? Which information is important so that designers will take care of their work in the best way?
  • Establish priorities. At this point it might help us to place ourselves in a to the limit situation. Which user group (or subgroup) would we research if we could only pick one? Which tasks would we analyse if we only had one week to carry out our research?

UX Research techniques in the Discovery phase

Ethnographic field studies

Field studies are research activities that take place in the user’s context instead of the companies’ context or in a UX Research Lab.

  • Active observation: Really common in research in context where the researcher actively participates in the users’ activities and regularly asks questions about the tasks they are doing.
  • We can go one step further, applying functionalities to prototypes, to prove or explore the touching points on existing digital products.

User interviews

User interviews consist of a dialogue between two or more people:

  • The interviewee(s)

Diary studies (field diaries)

Diary studies are a UX Research method used to compile qualitative data about behaviours, activities and experiences of the user throughout time. One of its main characteristics is that it is the participants themselves who take notes of the information through the specified time, from some days to up to a month or even more.

  • Use scenarios: How committed are users to the product? Which are their main tasks? Which are their workflows?
  • Motivations and attitudes: What motivates users to carry out specific tasks? How do they feel? What do they think?
  • Changes in behaviours and perceptions: How easy is it to learn how to use the system? Are users loyal?
  • Customer Journey: What is the users’ common route? How is the user experience?
  • User behaviour: Compiling information about their lifestyle and attitudes.
  • General activities: Understanding how people carry out their everyday activities such as sharing content through social media or buying online.
  • Specific activities: Understanding how users accomplish more particular activities such as planning a vacation or buying a car.

Competitive usability evaluations

The competitive usability evaluation method determines the product’s performance, related to its main competitors. This comparison can be made either with general usability metrics or in relation to the contents or design elements of other interfaces.



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Torresburriel Estudio

Torresburriel Estudio

User Experience & User Research agency focused on services and digital products. Proud member of @UXalliance