User Research Explained with Scope and Types

User Research Explained with Scope and Types

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Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager
Updated on Nov 20, 2023 08:48 IST

User research is about understanding user behaviours, needs, motivations, and preferences when interacting with products, services, or systems. A UX researcher deploys different methods specific to product development criteria and provides what users/customers want.

user research

One of the prime examples of user research is Airbnb’s global check-in tool. It teaches us what not to miss in understanding the user. 


At Airbnb, they noticed hosts sending photo messages to explain details to guests. This led to a year-long project for a global check-in tool.

This tool allows hosts to create visual guides for guests, translated into their preferred language. Airbnb continued to watch how hosts used it after launch, fixing issues and making improvements. Now, that create a great user experiences. 

This brings us to the next question…

What is User Research?

User research is the process of understanding users through various research methods. These include different types of qualitative and quantitative approaches. UX research can also be macroscopic and/or microscopic, based on how the users interact and take decisions. 

The goal of user research in the context of UI/UX is to understand the perspectives, challenges, and desires of the individuals who will ultimately use a particular product or service. This understanding serves as a fundamental pillar in designing and developing solutions that meet user expectations effectively. 

Purpose of User Research 

Ideally, user research should be able to answer three basic questions. 

1. Is the design relevant for the user?

2. Is the design easy to use?

3. What is the return on investment on the design?

A user researcher would handle these questions in the following ways. 

Relevance to the User

User research aims to gather insights into users' needs, behaviours, and preferences. Through that designers are able to create designs that are genuinely meaningful and aligned with users' requirements. The user contexts and motivations play a big role. It then becomes easier to develop products or services that address their specific needs effectively.

As an example, a mobile app development team conducts user research to understand the preferences and needs in the potential market. Through interviews and usability testing, they discover that users prefer a streamlined interface with quick access to essential features. With this insight, the design team creates an app interface that prioritises these key features. 

Ease of Use

User research focuses on understanding user interactions and experiences with products or services. By studying user behaviours and preferences, researchers and designers aim to create designs that are intuitive, user-friendly, and enjoyable to use. 

Suppose, a website redesign project involves user research to enhance user experience. By conducting usability tests and gathering feedback, the design team identifies navigation issues on the existing site. They then revamp the website layout, simplify menu structures, and improve search functionalities based on user feedback. As a result, users find the new design more intuitive and enjoyable to navigate.

Greater ROI

It involves measuring and analysing metrics related to user satisfaction, engagement, conversion rates, or other key performance indicators. Understanding the return on investment helps businesses justify UX design efforts and make informed decisions about future design strategies based on measurable results.

Scope of User Research

The scope of user research helps us learn how the process happens. You may also browse through the professional’s income by heading over to the UI/UX designer salary

Understanding User Behaviour

User research aims to delve into how users interact with products or services. This includes studying behavioural patterns, actions, decision-making processes, and the overall user journey while using a particular product or service.

Identifying User Needs and Goals

One crucial aspect of user research is identifying and comprehending user needs, desires, and goals. This involves uncovering what users expect from a product or service, their motivations, and the problems they aim to solve through their interactions. You may want to explore concepts like the difference between needs and wants.

Exploring User Preferences

Understanding user preferences involves investigating what users prefer in terms of design, functionality, features, and overall user experience. It includes preferences related to user interfaces, navigation, content presentation, and other elements that impact user satisfaction.

Assessing Usability and Accessibility

User research aims to evaluate the usability and accessibility of products or services from the user's perspective. It involves identifying any usability issues, barriers, or challenges that users might face while interacting with the product.

Validating Design Decisions

Within the scope of user research lies the validation of design decisions. This involves testing and validating design choices, prototypes, or concepts based on user feedback and insights obtained through various research methodologies.

Continual Improvement and Iteration

User research is an ongoing process that facilitates continual improvement and iteration of products or services. It supports the idea of iterative development, allowing for the incorporation of user feedback into successive iterations, ensuring that the product evolves to meet changing user needs and preferences.

Data-Driven Decision-Making

A crucial part of user research involves collecting, analysing, and interpreting data to inform decision-making. By relying on empirical evidence and insights derived from user research, organisations make informed decisions about product development strategies and directions.

User-Centric Approach

Ultimately, the scope of user research revolves around adopting a user-centric approach to product design and development. It aims to place users at the centre of decision-making processes. This way products or services can be tailored to meet their specific needs.

If you are further interested in exploring this aspect, head over to find some of the top UI/UX courses

Types of User Research 

Now that you have a broad understanding of what is involved in the discipline, let’s go over to understand the common types. 

Quantitative User Research

As the name suggests, quantitative user research involves gathering numerical data and statistical analysis to understand user behaviour and preferences. It focuses on measurable metrics, providing insights at scale.

So, what are some of the key ways to perform quantitative user research?

User Research Method



Usability Studies

Observing user interactions to assess usability

Tracking time taken to complete tasks on a website


Collecting structured feedback from a large user group

Questionnaire on website satisfaction and preferences

First Click Tests

Evaluating initial clicks to assess navigation effectiveness

Testing website menu layout for easy access

Tree Tests

Assessing navigational structure via item location tasks

Evaluating website information architecture

A/B Tests

Comparing two versions to determine performance

Testing different landing page designs for click-through rates

Qualitative User Research

Moving on, qualitative user research involves gathering descriptive data, often through open-ended interactions. This helps understand user experiences, motivations, and perceptions. It focuses on gathering rich, in-depth insights. 

Here are some examples of qualitative user research. 

User Research Method



Usability Studies

Observing user interactions to understand experiences

Sessions where users navigate a website while sharing thoughts


One-on-one or group discussions to explore user thoughts

Interviews with app users to understand feature preferences

Focus Groups

Small group discussions for diverse perspectives

Gathering feedback on a new product design among users

Field Studies

Observing users in natural settings for insights

Studying commuter interactions with a transport app

Diary/Camera Studies

Logging experiences via diaries or visual recordings

Participants recording daily app use experiences


Collaborating with users in the design process

Workshops for joint development of new app features

We also want to shed some light on generative user research below, that goes more into user's psychology and create ideas that are more innovative. 

Generative User Research

Generative user research is a methodology focused on exploring and understanding user needs, behaviours, and motivations in the early stages of product or service development. It aims to generate ideas, insights, and concepts that can drive innovation and inform the creation of new designs or solutions.

Key Aspects of Generative User Research

Understanding User Context: It involves immersing researchers in the user's world to gain insights into their environment, challenges, and aspirations.

Exploration of User Needs: Generative research seeks to uncover latent user needs and desires that users might not articulate directly.

Creative Ideation: It encourages brainstorming and idea generation to explore innovative solutions that address identified user needs.

Iterative Prototyping: It often involves rapid prototyping and testing of early concepts to gather feedback and refine ideas.

Collaborative Approach: It typically involves cross-disciplinary collaboration, bringing together designers, researchers, and users to co-create solutions.

Methods Used in Generative User Research

Generative User Research Method


Ethnographic Studies

Observing users in natural settings to understand behaviours and needs.

Co-Creation Workshops

Collaborative sessions involving users and stakeholders to generate ideas and concepts.

Contextual Inquiry

Engaging with users in their actual environments to understand workflows and challenges.

Generative Interviews

In-depth interviews aiming to uncover user motivations, aspirations, and unmet needs.

Persona Development

Creating fictional characters based on research data to represent different user groups and characteristics.

Storyboarding and Scenarios

Visual representations or narratives exploring potential user interactions with products or services.

Difference Between User Research and Market Research

User research sometimes might seem quite interchangeable with the term, marketing research. Both to understand consumer behaviour, preferences, and needs. The goal is to gather relevant qualitative and quantitative data about them. But let's see how they differ.  

Aspect User Research Market Research
Focus Understanding specific user behaviours, needs, and experiences related to products or services. Analysing broader market trends, consumer demographics, and industry dynamics.
Objective Improving product or service design based on user insights. Guiding strategic decisions related to marketing, sales, and overall business strategies.
Scope Narrow, focusing on specific user groups or personas. Broad, encompassing entire markets or significant segments.
Methods Interviews, surveys, usability testing, ethnographic studies, user personas. Surveys, focus groups, data analysis, trend analysis, competitor benchmarking.
Outcome Enhances user experience, usability, and functionality of products or services. Provides insights for strategic business decisions, market positioning, and growth strategies.
Application Applied in product development and user-centric design. Used for marketing strategies, market analysis, and business planning.

Key Takeaways

  • User research focuses on understanding user behaviours and preferences regarding products or services.
  • It guides design decisions by answering crucial questions: relevance, ease of use, and return on investment.
  • Methods include surveys, usability tests, and observations to gather user insights.
  • User research differs from market research, which analyses broader market trends for business strategies.
  • Its ultimate goal is to ensure products effectively meet user needs and expectations.
About the Author
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio