User research provides an essential foundation for the user experience (UX) of any successful digital transformation: Designing without user research is guesswork. Along with SAP’s user research community both expert knowledge and a demand for upskilling are growing. Thus, this blog provides a structured overview of methodological pieces, expert insights, and success stories. Also, please find answers to the most-searched-for questions about user research.
There are very few definitions in literature about user research. Mike Kuniavsky (Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research, 2003) defines user research as “the process of understanding the impact on an audience” in order to design products that meet customer needs. According to the ISO definition 9241-210:2019, user experience includes “the users’ emotions, beliefs, preferences, perceptions, comfort, behaviours, and accomplishments that occur before, during and after use.”
In the context of business software, user experience research is a systematic approach to find out how processes, products, and services work in everyday life. Insights about the end users’ needs and expectations help to make informed design decisions and enhance the user experience.
Investing time and money in user research will benefit all parties involved: Product, user and business. Incorporating numerical data and deep knowledge about the end users’ behaviors, needs, and wishes in an early stage of the development process avoids costly adaptations, tweaks, and escalations later on. This goes hand in hand with an improved user experience of the product.
User researchers have two main goals: to inform the product direction (new products, innovation) via field and market research, and to continuously improve the usability of products during the design and development phases. If the goal is to create a completely new software solution, user research is typically already starting to take place before a single line of code is written. When conducting user research to enhance existing software, the focus is on uncovering further requirements and improving the user experience.
Then, we can also split user research into qualitative and quantitative user research. Whereas qualitative research produces descriptive data and focuses on opinions, problems, reasons, and motivations, quantitative research results in numerical data that can be measured and analyzed more easily. The best kind of user research brings both quantitative and qualitative data together to provide product teams with a 360 view of user needs.
There are many different methodologies to choose from. Selecting the right method for your research question is critical to uncovering insights. In order to find the research method that fits your project’s current needs, reflect on two questions: Where are you in the product development lifecycle? What kind of information do you actually need once the research project is complete? The graphic below gives an overview of the 14 most practiced user research methods at SAP and their typical placement within the design-led development process.
During the Discover phase, user research focuses on learning about stakeholder and end user requirements, such as their responsibilities, tasks and activities, typical use cases, workflows, and the use of other software and artifacts needed to perform their jobs. In the Design phase, different methods are available for the validation of low- and high-fidelity prototypes. In the Deliver phase, usability benchmarking and surveys help to evaluate the product.
Any user research project includes planning, preparation, conduction, analysis, and synthesis. The details depend on the selected method. However, there are a few points that will decide whether your user research project will be a hit or miss.
- Goal setting: Before starting any user research project, clear goals needs to be defined (What do you actually want to find out? And how will this information you collected help you make a decision?) Then, the right method can be selected for this goal.
- Recruiting: You can only empower your team to make good product decisions by including the right test participants. Participants that don’t fit the end user profile might even provide results that lead the product in a wrong direction!
- Legal: There are multiple legal requirements to consider, such as privacy when collecting personal data (GDPR), intellectual property of SAP’s products, as well as confidentiality and revelation of trade secrets.
At SAP, we have written extensively about user research over the years. In the roundup below, you’ll find the blog posts sorted by topic: User research methods, user research case studies, basics and benefits of user research, personal insights from behind the scenes at SAP Design, design-thinking and prototyping. Each blog comes with a short summary and keywords that will help to orient you.
It’s a mixture of more recent pieces and also oldies but goodies that were migrated from the former SAP User Experience Community.
User research methods
|User Research Method Cards: Available for Download||This very popular card deck goves on overview of the 14 most used user research methods at SAP.||Methods, design-led development, tips and tricks
|How A / B Testing Improves Your Product and Service Launch||How to define macro and micro conversions, the difference between multivariate testing and A/B testings, and how to run them.||
A/B, conversion rate, customer experience, cx, e-commerce, testing
|Defining Target or Test Groups||Recruiting the right participants is crucial for generating valuable results from your testing and research.||
Testing, target groups, extreme users, expert users, aspect of time
|5 Challenges to Your Machine Learning Project||Read about five challenges to address in machine learning projects and an example how to use them to improve a product concept.||
User needs, intelligent system design, machine learning, generating alternative ideas
Statistical approaches and analysis
|“5 Users Are Enough”…for what, exactly?||
Jakob Nielsen claimed that five users suffice to run effective usability tests. But when is inviting more test participants worth the effort?
Prediction, sample size, usability testing
|When Time Matters: It’s All About Survival!||To improve application efficiency, survival analysis can help to spot where time is being lost.||
Prediction, sample size, usability testing, completion times
|Does Your Website Make People Want to Stay?||The post is about applying survival analysis methods to visit duration on websites.||
Session duration, Survival analysis, website analytics, Weibull analysis
User research case studies
Basics and benefits of user research
|Why User Research Is Beneficial for Your Work||How user research is being practiced at SAP via customer councils and how the internal UX advocate program brings together team, domain, and UX knowledge.||
Customer council, UX advocate program, career in UX
|The Human Touch: The Evolution of Evidence-Based Design||With user research as the basis for the success of any product, the discipline has been developing as a science for half a century. A short look at its journey.||
ISO norms, definition of usability and user experience
|Discover the Unknown – Phase 1 of the DLD Process||The Discover stage of the design-led development process and its three steps explained: Scoping, research, and synthesizing.||
Design-led development, discover, persona, user interview, business role
|UX Research: A Key Factor for Success in the Design Process||Discusses commonalities between user research in the digital and physical world. Further, it gives a broad overview of methods and explains quantitative and qualitative user research.||
Methods, quantitative research, quantitative research
|We are not the user: A fish finger case study||A humorous fish finger case study that experts sometimes might even use the products they are building, but can’t be considered as the typical, average end users.||
Validating assumptions, user centricity, SAP SuccessFactors
Design-thinking and prototyping
|#designmistakes – Believing Use Cases Are Only for UX, Not Also for Development||Use cases are a very important tool for user research and user experience design: They document possible interactions between users and a system. On top, uses cases can be used in development and quality assurance with various benefits.||
Test scenarios, demo scripts, user assistance, data binding of UI data, information architecture
|#designmistakes – Designing without Use Cases||Use cases ensure that end-user needs and wishes are represented, plus they can be reused as test cases for functional quality tests later on.||
Use cases, interaction design, end users, testing
|How early prototyping helps create better experiences||Prototyping is necessary for usability testing, but it can be extremely impactful even before that. This blog shares tips on how to get the most out of prototyping as a UX team.||
prototyping, team engagement, UX uncertainties
|Swimlane Diagram – a great tool for research, design, development and as communication tool||The Swimlane Diagram helps to communicate a product’s vision, serves for quality and training purposes, helps to clarify responsibilities, and reveals inefficiencies and gaps. Find out how to create a Swimlane Diagram and how to work with it.||
Key interactions, milestones, goals, motivations
User research: Behind the scenes at SAP Design
|“I Love the Surprise Factor”: Lilia about being a User Research Trainer||User research trainer Lilia Ungefug has been awarded the Trainer of the Year ’19 by SAP Development Learning. In an interview, she shared her insights as a trainer.||
Career in UX, personal insights, user research versus usability testing
|30 Days in the Shoes of a User Researcher||To see how user research works in practice, Monisha Pattanaik exchanged her role as a user researcher for a month and shared her valuable insights.||
Challenges of user research, user journey maps, validation
|Behind UX and SAP Design: Palo Alto||Dan Watters is the lead for the user research team in Palo Alto. Find out how he and his design colleagues contribute to an improved user experience and what he enjoys working on in particular.||
Working and cultural life, UX and design colleagues, personal takes on UX design
For an overview from SAP’s design research experts about field research, sign up for the external openSAP offering Basics of Design Research. For internal information about training courses, templates, tools, and much more, please join the User Research @ SAP Jam group.
To learn more about the SAP Fiori user experience, please visit the community topic page.
|Did you find this useful? Want to stay up to date on information and skills relevant to you as a UX lead? Make sure to bookmark the UX transformation toolkit tag.|