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Top 5 User Research Techniques Used by Professional UX Agencies

Posted: January 6, 2023 at 7:19 am / by / comments (0)

It is common knowledge that collecting insight from and learning more about users’ behaviors lies at the core of the best functional design in the UX design industry. However, UX design isn’t operating in a vacuum, and there is no one perfect method for collecting data regarding users’ needs and wants.

Smaller UX agencies or those just starting in the industry find great value and benefits in reviewing ratings and feedback that is received about competitors in their sector through industry forums. It allows them to pick up on those things that their competitors do well and areas where they are coming up short, allowing the agency to make the adjustments on their end.Companies with a more established UX design presence are well served to review logs of customer service calls and app reviews to determine what users think of their products and make the necessary adjustments.

Source: Unsplash

Whatever the research techniques UX agencies use, they seek areas where the product, service, or process can improve. Since users use the product offered by the design agency, they are the best source for retrieving the necessary information. Let’s consider some of the best UX design firm methods to perform user research and why these methods are particularly beneficial.

Reviews Of Mobile Apps

When an app component exists as part of the offered product, reading through app reviews left by users on the Apple Store or in the Google Play Store can bring great insight into what users think about the product. Though users leave a star rating, it is more important to focus on the content of the user’s review in terms of research. If they left a particular star rating, it is vital to understand their reason for doing so.

With negative reviews, some users will be disgruntled that they acquired a product that they expected something else from. Some may wish that the app had additional and particular features that they would personally find helpful. When reviews are positive, it is also essential to consider what is being said. At times a positive review is left by someone loyal to the brand and would not say a negative word about them. Other times, users are particularly impressed with a specific aspect of the app.

Whether the reviews are negative or positive, users rarely leave them without some motivating emotionally-charged force. The key is to dive into the points being made in these bell-curve anomalies and to use them, regardless of opinion or bias, to optimize product functionality. Reviews, especially emotionally motivated ones, are rarely without substance. Here are a few points to try to derive from them when encountered:

  • Are users hoping to see certain features the app doesn’t currently include?
  • Do the users find the UI of the app counterintuitive?
  • Are users pointing to particular inadequacies or bugs preventing them from using the app in the way it is intended to be used?
  • Sometimes features are added late in the game, but a user has to dig around a bit to access and use them. Some users will do such digging and identify features, get to love them, and point these out. As more discover them, they will gain popularity and let the designers seriously consider bringing these to the forefront.
  • Sometimes user frustration comes from simply not correctly understanding how to use the app. Deriving that from app reviews can help UX designers develop better documentation or provide a more thorough tutorial to users launching the app for the first time.

Feedback for apps is invaluable, but it is essential to remember to distinguish the input received for an Android platform app and that on iOS, as the points made by users could have to do specifically with the platform rather than the app in general.

Reviewing Customer Service Logs

Customer service reps are an excellent resource for gathering user research. When users find struggles with a product, they contact help centers and customer service agents to help them with troubleshooting past their challenges with the product. The calls are often recorded, and detailed logs of user calls are kept to document the reason for the call.

Of course, since user information is a sensitive matter, it is best to contact the help centers and inquire about whether their calls are recorded and if it’s acceptable for UX designers to listen to them for research purposes. If calls are inaccessible or simply not recorded, another route to find out some interesting customer-reported issues is to request an interview with a customer service team member. During the interviews, you can inquire about the types of problems the help center agents encounter most frequently and their unique issues to help troubleshoot.

However, you acquire information from help centers, keep in mind why users contact them in the first place: problems. If users experience issues, their reason for getting the help agents will largely stem from a negative perspective of the app or product they are having trouble with. Regardless of that, however, the information from help centers or their reps is invaluable. Not only does it highlight pain points during usage, but since the user experience extends past how users feel about the app, it can draw attention to business practices and policies that may need to be rethought, refined, or assessed.

‘Contact Us’ Emails

While filled mainly with complaints about the website they are addressed to, messages received via the ‘Contact Us’ messaging medium are a rich source of valuable user input. When users are struggling with locating a particular feature, encountering links that take them to wrong destinations, or just finding the navigation around the website confusing, they tend to reach out for assistance through emails to the site to request answers.

Of course, a contact form is not worth much unless there is someone who has monitoring this inbox as part of their regular job responsibility. As a designer, having a contact form on a website is imperative. If your site does not have one, its time to get one added, especially since adding such a contact form is straightforward.

Industry Forums

Reddit and 4Chan have given online forums a pretty negative reputation. However, the truth is that these are hardly representative of many other quality locations on the web that serve as tremendous sources of information about the nature of digital products and how a user is affected by them. Perhaps the insights are not as apparent at times through this medium, but they can undoubtedly be found when digging deep into a particular aspect.

Since not all forums are Omni-applicable, with much addressing information strictly for specific industries, some searching prowess is required by interested parties. That is not to say that there are not plenty of forums that address topics relative across sectors. While they may not get into the nitty-gritty details about every company, website, or app, users’ motivations, interests, and concerns can be evident when reading through many of the topic-specific posts by forum participants.

The great thing about multi-topic forums is that the topics of a specific nature are searchable, meaning that with a little bit of effort, one can find topics of interest being discussed rather quickly. Reddit, for example, features a vibrant and engaged forum participant community, who are eager to discuss any issues at great length. Quora is another fantastic example of a forum with an active community with many scholastically qualified personnel contributing expert opinions regarding a whole wide range of topics.

Competitor Analysis

One of the biggest struggles people run into is the inability to find information about particular products early on in a product’s life that can be a challenging bastion to overcome. But there will always be qualified industry competitors, so researching their approach is an excellent way to learn valuable lessons about industries one is looking to delve into. As an example, a company that is looking to launch a new business in the car service industry can use the app store on either Apple, Google, or Amazon to read up on competitors like Lyft and Uber, and consider what they have done right (and wrong) to get to their current position.


The underlying point, of course, is that the most valuable feedback an agency can receive about the design and performance of their product is by collecting information from real users. Companies cannot be discouraged by much of this negative information but rather leverage it for the invaluable input from user feedback.

Sometimes designers feel that they know what the users want, but they are well-served to remember that users decide what they want, like, and can do without. It may impede some designer creativity, but in the end, achieving the best possible product for the user is the goal. When designers reach out to research information in the form of call center logs, interviews, reviews in App stores, Glassdoor, and Yelp, they can find information from many users who are eager to contribute their opinions of how to make a product better, regardless of how that information is communicated.

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