UX Methods

After defining your objectives and planning your research framework, it’s time to choose the research technique that will best serve your project's goals and yield the right insights. While user research is often treated as an afterthought, it should inform every design decision. In this chapter, we walk you through the most common research methods and help you choose the right one for you.


What are UX research methods?

A UX research method is a way of generating insights about your users, their behavior, motivations, and needs. You can use methods like user interviews, surveys, focus groups, card sorting, to identify user challenges and turn them into opportunities to improve the user experience.
More of a visual learner? Check out this video for a speedy rundown. If you’re ready to get stuck in, .

The most common types of user research

First, let’s talk about the types of UX research. Every individual research method falls under these types, which reflect different goals and objectives for conducting research.
Here’s a quick overview:

Qualitative vs. quantitative

All research methods are either . Qualitative research focuses on capturing subjective insights into users' experiences. It aims to understand the underlying reasons, motivations, and behaviors of individuals. Quantitative research, on the other hand, involves collecting and analyzing numerical data to identify patterns, trends, and significance. It aims to quantify user behaviors, preferences, and attitudes, allowing for generalizations and statistical insights.
Qualitative research also typically involves a smaller sample size than quantitative research (40 participants, as recommended by ).

Attitudinal vs. behavioral

Attitudinal research is about understanding users' attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs. It delves into the 'why' behind user decisions and actions. It often involves surveys or interviews where users are asked about their feelings, preferences, or perceptions towards a product or service. It's subjective in nature, aiming to capture people's emotions and opinions.
Behavioral research is about what users do rather than what they say they do or would do. This kind of research is often based on observation methods like usability testing, eye-tracking, or heat maps to understand user behavior.

Generative vs. evaluative

is all about generating new ideas, concepts, and insights to fuel the design process. You might run brainstorming sessions with groups of users, card sorting, and co-design sessions to inspire creativity and guide the development of user-centered solutions.
On the other hand, focuses on assessing the usability, effectiveness, and overall quality of existing designs or prototypes. Once you’ve developed a prototype of your product, it's time to evaluate its strengths and weaknesses. You can compare different versions of a product design or feature through A/B testing—ensuring your UX design meets user needs and expectations.

11 Best UX research methods and when to use them

There are various UX research techniques—each method serves a specific purpose and can provide unique insights into user behaviors and preferences. In this section, we’ll highlight the most common research techniques you need to know.
Read on for an at-a-glance table, and full breakdown of each method.
Table 1
Column 1
Column 2
Column 3
Column 4
User interviews
One-on-one open-ended and guided discussions
Start and end of your project
Qualitative Generative
Field studies
Observe people in their natural environment
All stages
Qualitative Behavioral
Focus group
Group discussions facilitated by a moderator
Start and end of your project
Qualitative Generative
Diary studies
Users keep a diary to track interactions and experience with a product
Start of your project
Qualitative Evaluative
Asking people open or closed questions
All stages
Qualitative Quantitative Attitudinal Generative Evaluative
Card sorting
Users sort information and ideas into groups that makes sense to them
Start of your project
Qualitative Generative Attitudinal
Tree testing
Assess the findability and organization of information as users navigate a stripped-down IA
Start of your design or redesign process
Quantitative Behavioral Evaluative
Usability testing
Users perform a set of tasks in a controlled setting
All stages
Qualitative Behavioral Evaluative
Five second testing
Collect immediate impressions within a short timeframe
During initial ideation and throughout design
Attitudinal Evaluative
A/B testing
Compare two versions of a solution
All stages
Quantitative Evaluative
Concept testing
Evaluate the feasibility, appeal, and potential success of a new product
During initial ideation, design, and before launch
Qualitative Generative
There are no rows in this table

User interviews

are a qualitative research method that involves having open-ended and guided discussions with users to gather in-depth insights about their experiences, needs, motivations, and behaviors.
Typically, you would ask a few questions on a specific topic and analyze participants' answers. The results you get will depend on how well you form and ask questions, as well as follow up on participants’ answers.
“As a researcher, it's our responsibility to drive the user to their actual problems,” says , User Experience Researcher at Zinio. She adds, “The narration of incidents can help you analyze a lot of hidden details with regard to user behavior.”
That’s why you should:
Start with a wide context: Make sure that your questions don’t start with your product
Ask questions that focus on the tasks that users are trying to complete
Invest in analysis: Get transcripts done and share the findings with your team
, Design Researcher at Sketch recommends defining the goals and assumptions internally. “Our beliefs about our users’ behavior really help to structure good questions and get to the root of the problem and its solution,” she explains.
Tip: It's easy to be misunderstood if you don't have experience writing interview questions. You can get someone to review them for you or use our .

When to conduct user interviews

This method is typically used at the start and end of your project. At the start of a project, you can establish a strong understanding of your target users, their perspectives, and the context in which they’ll interact with your product. By the end of your project, new user interviews—often with a different set of individuals—offer a litmus test for your product's usability and appeal, providing firsthand accounts of experiences, perceived strengths, and potential areas for refinement.

Field studies

Field studies are research activities that take place in the user’s environment rather than in your lab or office. They’re a great method for uncovering context, unknown motivations, or constraints that affect the user experience.
An advantage of field studies is observing people in their natural environment, giving you a glimpse at the context in which your product is used. It’s useful to understand the context in which users complete tasks, learn about their needs, and collect in-depth user stories.

When to conduct field studies

This method can be used at all stages of your project—two key times you may want to conduct field studies are:
As part of the discovery and exploration stage to define direction and understand the context around when and how users interact with the product
During usability testing, once you have a prototype, to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution or validate design assumptions in real-world contexts

3. Focus groups

A focus group is a qualitative research method that includes the study of a group of people, their beliefs, and opinions. It’s typically used for market research or gathering feedback on products and messaging.
Focus groups can help you better grasp:
How users perceive your product
What users believe are a product’s most important features
What problems do users experience with the product
As with any qualitative research method, the quality of the data collected through focus groups is only as robust as the preparation. So, it’s important to prepare a you can refer to during the discussion.
Here’s some things to consider:
Write a script to guide the conversation
Ask clear, open-ended questions focused on the topics you’re trying to learn about
Include around five to ten participants to keep the sessions focused and organized

When to conduct focus groups

It’s easier to use this research technique when you're still formulating your concept, product, or service—to explore user preferences, gather initial reactions, and generate ideas. This is because, in the early stages, you have flexibility and can make significant changes without incurring high costs.
Another way some researchers employ focus groups is post-launch to gather feedback and identify potential improvements. However, you can also use other methods here which may be more effective for identifying usability issues. For example, a platform like Maze can provide detailed, actionable data about how users interact with your product. These quantitative results are a great accompaniment to the qualitative data gathered from your focus group.

4. Diary studies

Diary studies involve asking users to track their usage and thoughts on your product by keeping logs or diaries, taking photos, explaining their activities, and highlighting things that stood out to them.
“Diary studies are one of the few ways you can get a peek into how users interact with our product in a real-world scenario,” says Tanya.
A helps you tell the story of how products and services fit into people’s daily lives, and the touch-points and channels they choose to complete their tasks.
There’s several key questions to consider before conducting diary research, from what kind of diary you want—freeform or structured, and digital or paper—to how often you want participants to log their thoughts.
Open, ‘freeform’ diary: Users have more freedom to record what and when they like, but can also lead to missed opportunities to capture data users might overlook
Closed, ‘structured; diary: Users follow a stricter entry-logging process and answer pre-set questions
Remember to determine the trigger: a signal that lets the participants know when they should log their feedback. Tanya breaks these triggers down into the following:
Interval-contingent trigger: Participants fill out the diary at specific intervals such as one entry per day, or one entry per week
Signal-contingent trigger: You tell the participant when to make an entry and how you would prefer them to communicate it to you as well as your preferred type of communication
Event-contingent trigger: The participant makes an entry whenever a defined event occurs

When to conduct diary studies

Diary studies are often valuable when you need to deeply understand users' behaviors, routines, and pain points in real-life contexts. This could be when you're:
Conceptualizing a new product or feature: Gain insights into user habits, needs, and frustrations to inspire your design
Trying to enhance an existing product: Identify areas where users are having difficulties or where there are opportunities for better user engagement

5. Surveys

Although are primarily used for quantitative research, they can also provided qualitative data, depending on whether you use closed or open-ended questions:
Closed-ended questions come with a predefined set of answers to choose from using formats like rating scales, rankings, or multiple choice. This results in quantitative data.
Open-ended questions are typically open-text questions where test participants give their responses in a free-form style. This results in qualitative data.
, Product Researcher at Maze, explains the benefit of surveys: “With open-ended questions, researchers get insight into respondents' opinions, experiences, and explanations in their own words. This helps explore nuances that quantitative data alone may not capture.”
So, how do you make sure you’re asking the right survey questions? , UX Researcher at Signal, says that when planning online surveys, it’s best to avoid questions that begin with “How likely are you to…?” Instead, Gregg says asking questions that start with “Have you ever… ?” will prompt users to give more specific and measurable answers.
Make sure your questions:
Are easy to understand
Don't guide participants towards a particular answer
Include both closed-ended and open-ended questions
Respect users and their privacy
Are consistent in terms of format
To learn more about survey design, .

When to conduct surveys

While surveys can be used at all stages of project development, and are ideal for , the specific timing and purpose may vary depending on the research goals. For example, you can run surveys at:
Conceptualization phase to gather preliminary data, and identify patterns, trends, or potential user segments
Post-launch or during iterative design cycles to gather feedback on user satisfaction, feature usage, or suggestions for improvements

6. Card sorting

is an important step in creating an intuitive information architecture (IA) and user experience. It’s also a great technique to generate ideas, naming conventions, or simply see how users understand topics.
In this UX research method, participants are presented with cards featuring different topics or information, and tasked with grouping the cards into categories that make sense to them.
There are three types of card sorting:
Open card sorting: Participants organize topics into categories that make sense to them and name those categories, thus generating new ideas and names
Hybrid card sorting: Participants can sort cards into predefined categories, but also have the option to create their own categories
Closed card sorting: Participants are given predefined categories and asked to sort the items into the available groups
You can run a card sorting session using physical index cards or digitally with a like Maze to simulate the drag-and-drop activity of dividing cards into groups. Running digital card sorting is ideal for any type of card sort, and moderated or unmoderated sessions.
Read more about card sorting and learn how to run a card sorting session

When to conduct card sorting

Card sorting isn’t limited to a single stage of design or development—it can be employed anytime you need to explore how users categorize or perceive information. For example, you may want to use card sorting if you need to:
Understand how users perceive ideas
Evaluate and prioritize potential solutions
Generate name ideas and understand naming conventions
Learn how users expect navigation to work
Decide how to group content on a new or existing site
Restructure information architecture

7. Tree testing

During a text-only version of the site is given to your participants, who are asked to complete a series of tasks requiring them to locate items on the app or website.
The data collected from a tree test helps you understand where users intuitively navigate first, and is an effective way to assess the findability, labeling, and information architecture of a product.
We recommend keeping these sessions short, ranging from 15 to 20 minutes, and asking participants to complete no more than ten tasks. This helps ensure participants remain focused and engaged, leading to more reliable and accurate data, and avoiding fatigue.
If you’re using a platform like Maze to run remote testing, you can easily based on various demographic filters, including industry and country. This way, you can uncover a broader range of user preferences, ensuring a more comprehensive understanding of your target audience.
To learn more about tree testing, .

When to conduct tree testing

Tree testing is often done at an early stage in the design or redesign process. That’s because it’s more cost-effective to address errors at the start of a project—rather than making changes later in the development process or after launch.
However, it can be helpful to employ tree testing as a method when adding new features, particularly alongside card sorting.
While tree testing and card sorting can both help you with categorizing the content on a website, it’s important to note that they each approach this from a different angle and are used at different stages during the research process. Ideally, you should use the two in tandem: card sorting is recommended when defining and testing a new website architecture, while tree testing is meant to help you test how the navigation performs with users.

8. Usability testing

Usability testing evaluates your product with people by getting them to complete tasks while you observe and note their interactions (either during or after the test). The goal of conducting usability testing is to understand if your design is intuitive and easy to use. A sign of success is if users can easily accomplish their goals and complete tasks with your product.
There are various that you can use, such as moderated vs. unmoderated or —and selecting the right one depends on your research goals, resources, and timeline.
Usability testing is usually performed with functional mid or hi-fi . If you have a Figma, InVision, Sketch, or prototype ready, you can import it into a platform like Maze and start testing your design with users immediately.
Realistic, and describe a scenario
Actionable, and use action verbs (create, sign up, buy, etc)
Be mindful of using leading words such as ‘click here’ or ‘go to that page’ in your tasks. These instructions bias the results by helping users complete their tasks—something that doesn’t happen in real life.

Product tip ✨

With Maze, you can test your and with real users to filter out cognitive biases, and gather actionable insights that fuel product decisions.

When to conduct usability testing

To inform your design decisions, you should . Here are some guidelines to help you decide when to do usability testing:
Before you start designing
Once you have a wireframe or prototype
Prior to the launch of the product
At regular intervals after launch
To learn more about usability testing, check out our .

9. Five-second testing

In , participants are (unsurprisingly) given five seconds to view an image like a design or web page, and then they’re asked questions about the design to gauge their first impressions.
Why five seconds? According to
, 55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a website, so it;s essential to grab someone’s attention in the first few seconds of their visit. With a five-second test, you can quickly determine what information users perceive and their impressions during the first five seconds of viewing a design.

Product tip 💡

And if you’re using Maze, you can simply upload an image of the screen you want to test, or browse your prototype and select a screen. Plus, you can and automatically add them to your report to share with stakeholders.

When to conduct five-second testing

Five-second testing is typically conducted in the early stages of the design process, specifically during initial or prototype development. This way, you can evaluate your design's initial impact and make early refinements or adjustments to ensure its effectiveness, before putting design to development.
To learn more, check out our chapter on .

10. A/B testing

, also known as split testing, compares two or more versions of a webpage, interface, or feature to determine which performs better regarding engagement, conversions, or other predefined metrics.
It involves randomly dividing users into different groups and giving each group a different version of the design element being tested. For example, let's say the primary call-to-action on the page is a button that says ‘buy now’.
You're considering making changes to its design to see if it can lead to higher conversions, so you create two versions:
Version A: The original design with the ‘buy now’ button positioned below the product description—shown to group A
Version B: A variation with the ‘buy now’ button now prominently displayed above the product description—shown to group B
Over a planned period, you measure metrics like click-through rates, add-to-cart rates, and actual purchases to assess the performance of each variation. You find that Group B had significantly higher click-through and conversion rates than Group A. This indicates that showing the button above the product description drove higher user engagement and conversions.
Check out our for more in-depth examples and guidance on how to run these tests.

When to conduct A/B testing

A/B testing can be used at all stages of the design and development process—whenever you want to collect direct, quantitative data and confirm a suspicion, or settle a design debate. This iterative testing approach allows you to continually improve your website's performance and user experience based on data-driven insights.

11. Concept testing

Concept testing is a type of research that evaluates the feasibility, appeal, and potential success of a new product before you build it. It centers the user in the ideation process, using UX research methods like A/B testing, surveys, and customer interviews.
There’s no one way to run a concept test—you can opt for concept testing surveys, interviews, focus groups, or any other method that gets qualitative data on your concept.
*Dive into our for more tips and tricks on getting started. *

When to conduct concept testing

Concept testing helps gauge your audience’s interest, understanding, and likelihood-to-purchase, before committing time and resources to a concept. However, it can also be useful further down the product development line—such as when defining marketing messaging or just before launching.

Which is the best UX research type?

The best research type varies depending on your project; what your objectives are, and what stage you’re in. Ultimately, the ideal type of research is one which provides the insights required, using the available resources.
For example, if you're at the early ideation or stage, generative research methods can help you generate new ideas, understand user needs, and explore possibilities. As you move to the design and development phase, evaluative research methods and quantitative data become crucial.
Discover the shaping the future of the industry and why the best results come from a combination of different research methods.

How to choose the right user experience research method

In an ideal world, a combination of all the insights you gain from multiple types of user research methods would guide every design decision. In practice, this can be hard to execute due to resources.

Sometimes the right methodology is the one you can get buy-in, budget, and time for. , UX Researcher at Signal

can help streamline the research process, making regular testing and application of diverse methods more accessible—so you always keep the user at the center of your design process. Some other key tips to remember when choosing your method are:

Define the goals and problems

A good way to inform your choice of user experience research method is to start by considering your goals. You might want to browse or read about examples of research.
, UX Research Partner at Google Ventures, recommends answering questions like:
“What do your users need?”
“What are your users struggling with?”
“How can you help your users?”

Understand the design process stage

If your team is very early in product development, —like field studies—make sense. If you need to test design mockups or a prototype, methods—such as usability testing—will work best.
This is something they’re big on at Sketch, as we heard from Design Researcher, Tanya Nativ. She says, “In the discovery phase, we focus on user interviews and contextual inquiries. The testing phase is more about dogfooding, concept testing, and usability testing. Once a feature has been launched, it’s about ongoing listening.”

Consider the type of insights required

If you're looking for rich, qualitative data that delves into user behaviors, motivations, and emotions, then methods like user interviews or field studies are ideal. They’ll help you uncover the ‘why’ behind user actions.
On the other hand, if you need to gather quantitative data to measure user satisfaction or compare different design variations, methods like surveys or A/B testing are more suitable. These methods will help you get hard numbers and concrete data on preferences and behavior.
*Discover the UX shaping the future of the industry and why the best results come from a combination of different research methods. *

Build a deeper understanding of your users with UX research

Think of UX research methods as building blocks that work together to create a well-rounded understanding of your users. Each method brings its own unique strengths, whether it's human empathy from user interviews or the vast data from surveys.
But it's not just about choosing the right UX research methods; the research platform you use is equally important. You need a platform that empowers your team to collect data, analyze, and collaborate seamlessly.
Simplifying is simple with Maze. From tree testing to card sorting, prototype testing to user interview analysis—Maze makes getting actionable insights easy, whatever method you opt for.
Meanwhile, if you want to know more about testing methods, head on to the next chapter all about .

Frequently asked questions

How do you choose the right UX research method?

Choosing the right research method depends on your goals. Some key things to consider are:
The feature/product you’re testing
The type of data you’re looking for
The design stage
The time and resources you have available
What is the best UX research method?
When to use which user experience research method?

What is the best UX research method?

The best research method is the one you have the time, resources, and budget for that meets your specific needs and goals. Most research tools, like Maze, will accommodate a variety of UX research and testing techniques.

When to use which user experience research method?

Selecting which user research method to use—if budget and resources aren’t a factor—depends on your goals. UX research methods provide different types of data:
Qualitative vs quantitative
Attitudinal vs behavioral
Generative vs evaluative
Identify your goals, then choose a research method that gathers the user data you need.
Table 2
Most Efficient UX Research Methods
A great way to gather quantitative data quickly and efficiently. They can provide insights into user demographics, behaviors, and preferences.
User Interviews
A qualitative research method that involves asking open-ended questions to understand user needs and pain points. They provide more in-depth insights than surveys.
Usability Testing
Involves observing users as they interact with a product to identify areas of improvement. This research method can be conducted in a laboratory setting or remotely.
A/B Testing
Involves creating two versions of a product and testing them with different groups of users to determine which version performs better. Can provide valuable insights into user preferences and behavior.
Involves collecting data on user behavior through tools like Google Analytics. Provides valuable insights into user demographics, behaviors, and preferences. Can be used to track user behavior over time and identify areas for improvement.
There are no rows in this table
The text presents a list of 10 UX methods that can be used to improve the design of digital products and services. These methods are:
User interviews: a technique that involves talking to users to understand their needs, behaviors, and pain points.
Personas: fictional characters that represent different types of users and their characteristics.
User journey mapping: a visual representation of the steps that users take to achieve their goals.
Usability testing: a process that involves testing a product with real users to identify areas of improvement.
Card sorting: a method to organize information into categories that make sense to users.
A/B testing: a technique that involves comparing two versions of a product to determine which one performs better.
Heuristic evaluation: an inspection method that involves evaluating a product against a set of usability principles or guidelines.
Eye tracking: a technology that tracks the movement of users' eyes to understand how they interact with a product.
Surveys: a method to collect feedback from users about their experiences with a product.
Focus groups: a technique that involves gathering a group of users to discuss their opinions and perceptions about a product.


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UX Research Methods for Data-Driven UI Design

As a product designer, creating a user-friendly interface is crucial for success. But how do you know what your users really want? Enter UX research methods. These methods provide valuable insights into user behavior and preferences, which can help guide your design decisions.
Here are some UX research methods that can help you improve your UI design based on data:


Surveys are a great way to collect quantitative data from a large group of users. You can use surveys to understand user demographics, satisfaction levels, and preferences. This data can help you identify patterns and make data-driven design decisions.


Interviews are a qualitative research method that allow you to dive deeper into user perspectives. You can conduct one-on-one interviews to understand user needs, pain points, and motivations. This information can guide your design decisions and help you create a more user-centered interface.

Usability Testing

Usability testing involves observing users as they interact with your product. You can identify areas of the interface that are confusing or frustrating and make changes based on user feedback. Usability testing can help you create a more intuitive and user-friendly interface.

A/B Testing

A/B testing involves testing two versions of a design to see which performs better. You can use A/B testing to compare different layouts, colors, or copy. This method can help you make data-driven decisions about which design elements to keep or change.
By using these UX research methods, you can create a more data-driven and user-centered UI design. Remember to always keep your users in mind and iterate based on their feedback. Happy designing!

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