User research is the systematic study of target users of a product or interface to understand their behaviors, needs, and motivations. User research can happen at every stage of the design process to inform decisions.
It’s important to combine multiple research methods for a full understanding of user behavior.
Some researchers specialize in quantitative research methods that can be measured numerically. Others specialize in qualitative research methods that examine why users behave the way they do in depth. Attitudinal methods focus on what users say, while behavioral methods observe user behavior.
While generative user research, such as interviews and surveys, is done as part of the discovery process to get to know users better, evaluation methods like user testing and A/B testing assess how a design or prototype performs once it’s complete. Research can happen either in-person or remotely — remote UX research can help increase inclusivity, free up monetary resources that would be spent on travel, and increase convenience for research participants (source: Nielsen Norman Group).
User researchers use visual tools like personas, user journey maps, and storyboards to advocate for the user and circulate key points from user research across an organization.