User research skills refer to the ability of an individual to use a variety of investigative methods for understanding an audience; their needs, opinions, motivations, and behaviors etc. However, the most important part of user research skills is the ability to understand how the identified user needs might be satisfied.

User research skills are utilized mainly for the purpose of enriching the design process with useful insights gained by studying the end users’ perspectives.  This is mainly done by attempting to observe and understand the impact of a particular design on a specific audience.

Why is user research important

For many of us, it is often tempting to save time, effort, and money by forgoing user research. However, it is time we realize and understand that relinquishing user research is likely to have the opposite effect.

As already discussed, user research is important for all businesses since it facilitates the design process by providing the perspectives of end users. It tends to validate our assumptions by helping us understand our audience thoroughly. Since user research enables us to have a clearer picture in mind of what we are producing for greater satisfaction of customers, the product development time is reduced to a great extent which in turn saves the money which is usually wasted in redundancy.

Not only does user research help you attract and retain more loyal customers by offering products tailored to their needs, but it also saves the cost and effort involved in providing the post-purchase customer support.

How to improve user research skills

You may be well familiar with the entire research process and the methodology you choose, but following are some useful tips that can help you further improve your user research skills:

  • Ensure the sample size is large enough. It may sound exhausting but make sure that you interview as many users as possible. This definitely requires a great deal of time and effort on your behalf but rest assured that it pays off eventually. You will inevitably learn new and interesting things from every user that you talk to.
  • Never inquire about their wants. If you want the answers of the users to be in context, stop asking them what they want. If you let them wander in the realm of possibility, you will be making it difficult for nobody but yourself. Instead, ask them what it is that they are trying to get done, how they currently do it, and what (in their opinion) could make their attempts at it better. Now you will be in a better position to understand their needs and serve them better.
  • Do not fixate on solutions. Whether consciously or not, many of us tend to let the solutions stick in our minds during the research. We must try to avoid that in order to avoid any biases. The best way is to try and free your mind of all thoughts while collecting information from users so that maximum time is given to defining the problem before you attempt to solve it.
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