User Research: Getting into the Mind of Mobile App Users

It’s well understood that User Research is what makes for the best user experiences. Let’s talk about what are the right User Research techniques for mobile apps. There are some techniques which have already been demonstrated to show proven value and results. There is no such classic UX Research technique for mobile apps.

Mobile is the fastest growing way of accessing the internet in the world. Mobile apps constitute the majority of activity on the smartphone platform. This presents huge opportunities for mobile app developers but in order to get the user experience right; it also presents a big demand for high-quality of User Research.

The global app market is now worth more than $100 billion. That’s a significant change and to secure some of that market will require great user experiences from mobile apps. Mobile User Research is the key weapon in the UX designer’s armoury to conquer some of that market.

Methods for Mobile Apps: Qualitative User Research

There are 3 main research methodologies for qualitative User Research for mobile apps:

· Lab Studies

· Observational/Field Studies

· Journal Studies

Lab Studies

Observational/Field Studies

This can generate a lot of useful data and is pretty easy on the participants. However, field studies offer no guarantee that the people you are observing are “typical users” who represent the whole user base and they can be intrusive and awkward to carry out.

Journal Studies

A journal/diary study poses the questions; “When do users actually use our app? In what contexts do they use our apps?” and they involve the user writing down the when, how and why including other observations each time they use the app.

Their biggest drawback is that they rely on the user remembering to note down each use of the app. They also require a lot of management to ensure that they provide the most value.

Now, let’s move forward towards Quantitative User Research for Mobile Apps.

Methods for Mobile Apps: Quantitative User Research

There are 4 key types of quantitative research technique used in mobile app research:

· Online Surveys

· Behavioural Analysis

· Automated Logging Activity

· Experience Sample Methods

Online Surveys

Online surveys are incredibly cost-effective and can create large amount of data on a geographically diverse basis which, in turn, leads to statistically significant sample sizes and results.

The down side is that there is no direct contact with the user in large processes like this and you may find that you can identify patterns but can’t deduce the “why this should be?” from them.

Behavioural Analysis

This can be very useful to be certain about what people do as opposed to what they say they do and to understand traffic patterns. This is a perennial problem for researchers.

Conversely, the data will not show the user’s context or their intentions. This is why behaviour analysis is often conducted alongside a survey — to try and develop a clearer picture of “why”.

Automated Logging

Experience Sampling Method (ESM)

There is a risk of introducing cognitive bias into the captured data and studies need to be well-designed to minimize this potential.

The Take Away


As you can see, there is indeed a structured approach of User Research towards mobile applications. Moreover, the importance of User Research, especially for mobile — with the large array of devices and their respective specs has long-been documented. This is why there is absolutely no excuse as to why, at this day and age, one should not conduct User Research.

References & Where to Learn More

You may find this valuable-

Deep introduction into User Research and why you must adapt into this reality-

AI Chatbots- The Game Changer For Educational Mobile Apps?-

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