In this section we uncover and give a high-level overview of some of the key research tools available for uncovering user requirements, pain points, and their overall experience. To successfully pick the right research technique, you should already know the goal for the research (what problem you want to solve, or what question you need an answer for). Each research technique has its pros and cons. To successfully find your answer and deliver true usability with your app, you may find the best solution is to combine more than one research technique. This will allow you to better interpret the data and deliver meaningful answers. Often a blend of qualitative and quantitative techniques results in the most success in understanding your customer and it is also recommended if you’re seeking certification.
Tip: Certification Requirements
When considering the research methods you will use during your development process, don’t forget to think about certification requirements (ISO requirements or Meaningful Use Stage 2 or 3). Certain certifications require different types of research and reviewing those requirements and what is required for reporting to obtain certification prior to starting will help you during your design process and speed your way to achieving certification.
There are numerous other research techniques that are not mentioned in this chart that could also be used. For example: you could study user manuals and other existing documentation. They are often a good source of data about the steps involved in an existing activity and also highlight any regulations that could be governing the task. But tread with caution: Documentation like this should not be the only source of information as everyday practices may have been augmented to make procedures work in a practical setting. You’ll need to observe what really happens and compare and contrast that with the user manual.
Taking a user-centered approach means that you should be interested in the everyday practices rather than an idealized account. With that in mind, it also can be helpful to track down any analytics available on existing systems and processes and investigate customer support calls for any existing software.
When considering your application and your users, it’s important to think about the questions you have about its design and use and review the available research techniques. Regardless of the technique you choose, that process will bring you one step closer to better understanding who your user really is and what they really need to accomplish within your app.
This chart also can help you determine the right research technique. It illustrates how the dimensions affect the types of questions that can be asked, and that may help you narrow down where you need to start. For example, qualitative methods are much better suited for answering questions about why (or how to) fix a problem, whereas quantitative methods do a much better job answering how many and how much type of questions.