User Research

User research is about investigating the processes, expectations and environments for how website visitors use tools.

Why Perform User Research

User research is applied during a project to determine the needs and requirements for a new system or tool. Once the product is being used, it assists with finding areas for improvement and planning for additional features.

Focusing design and development deliverables on these needs will lead to:

  • Increased adoption of new tools.
  • Improved user experience of the tool.
  • increased satisfaction with ITS.

In addition, user research methods highlight problems and hard-to-use elements earlier in design and development, allowing projects the ability to shift course nimbly, rather than missing deadlines due to later rework or releasing less usable tools with the intention of "fixing it later."

User Research Plans

The Digital UX Team can provide consulting on creating, conducting and analyzing a user research plan based on the needs of a particular project.

A sampling of methods that may be included is provided below.

Card Sorting

A method for defining information architecture, card sorts should be used when determining menu items or categories for a site/application.

Focus Groups

A method to gather information from a group on work processes and goals, as well as functional and usability requirements for a product. Attendees are given opportunities to hone in on the important issues of their choosing, and build off the responses of one another to provide deeper insights into issues.


A method to elicit the needs of users by speaking directly with users to determine reactions, opinions or how they solve issues.


A method to gather information from a large number of users, often using a combination of multiple choice questions as well as long-form answers.

Usability Testing

A set of methods for evaluating a particular user interface by collecting data from individuals who are asked to use the interface to perform a series of tasks.

Diary Studies

A method to gather information surrounding a user’s interactions with a website/application at the time of real use.

Goal Mapping

A method to define requirements and scope for a project where the goals for various user groups are mapped to determine where the goals overlap, where goals may conflict and areas where goals are limited to a particular group and thus may have limited business value.

Personas and Persona Mapping

A method used to define requirements and hierarchy of features in design and development by creating "sample users" based on interviews and determining the hierarchy of needs.

True Intent Studies

A method of analyzing user goals and motivations to use products and features, and the ensuing measures of success.