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
Qualitative research is important. It is concerned with identifying ideas and trends. By definition, it is not measurable research (you are not collecting numbers) but it is a research which provides a flow of concepts that the researcher must analyze to gain insights for product development.
There are 3 main research methodologies for qualitative User Research for mobile apps:
· Lab Studies
· Observational/Field Studies
· Journal Studies
Lab studies are great because they allow the moderator to interact with the participants and ask questions to gain further insights. It is designed to test whether the user can actually use the product. A lab study is conducted using a mobile device in an environment where the user can be observed by the research team. This often involves the researcher remaining in a different room observing remotely while the user goes about with their tasks.
You conduct a field study to determine; “When are users using the app? What context do they use the app in?” A field study requires a researcher to observe participants as they interact with the app.
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 can be very good at determining how a user actually uses the app and for delivering honest feedback to the research team.
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
Quantitative research results in “hard numbers” which can often be more powerful when convincing stakeholders to make a decision than the outputs of qualitative research. However, it’s worth remembering that quantitative research normally answers different questions to qualitative research and both are necessary to develop the best user experiences.
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 will involve using a questionnaire combined with automated data collection reflecting the user’s actual behaviour. It tracks user behaviour and answers the questions; “What do users think of our product? What do they perceive the value to be?”
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 works to determine the answer to the “how do people use our app?” question. It is conducted via installed software on the users’ devices that track the way people navigate through the app and/or how they conduct the tasks on your app.
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”.
Another way to answer the “how do people use our app?” question is through automated logging. It records events that are generated on the mobile device and without user input. This is a very good way to ensure that interaction data is objective and consistent. Like behavioural analysis, automated logging is limited in the ability to interrogate context or intent.
Experience Sampling Method (ESM)
Experience Sampling Method is particularly useful in Mobile User Research because it consists of sending automated messages to the study participant at the point they carry out an action to ask about their experience. It helps answer two main questions; “How does the user use our app?” and “What do they think about that?”
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
When it comes to User Research for mobile apps — all the User Research techniques you currently use can be adapted to mobile. However, the tools listed above have been shown to be particularly effective for mobile User Research and may be of use as you try to design stronger mobile app user experiences.
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- https://www.techved.com/blog/user-research-adapt-to-reality
AI Chatbots- The Game Changer For Educational Mobile Apps?- https://www.techved.com/blog/ai-chatbots-the-game-changer-for-educational-mobile-apps