What Is a UX Researcher? How to Get the Job

In today's competitive market, developing products that satisfy user needs and delight them is crucial. User experience (UX) research comes into play during this. UX researchers systematically study target users to analyse data and collect that will help inform the product design process. They become advocates for users, giving them a voice in the product development process.

What is UX Research?

UX research is the process of studying and understanding the target users of a product. It involves answering questions like:

  • Who are the users?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • How can the product help them achieve their goals?

Instead of making assumptions, UX researchers design research strategies to gather data-driven insights about users' needs, behaviours, and preferences.

Types of UX Research

UX research can be categorised into two main types:

Quantitative Research

Quantitative research focuses on numerical data and statistics. It measures aspects like:

  • The time it takes users to complete a task
  • The percentage of users who successfully completed a task
  • The number of errors or bugs encountered during the process

This data is most useful when compared to previous designs or competitors' products.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research looks at non-numerical insights, like the reasons behind users' difficulties finishing tasks or their feelings when using a product. Quantitative research addresses the "what," whereas qualitative research addresses the "why."

Another distinction is between behavioural and attitudinal research:

  • Behavioural research examines what users do, such as where they click or the navigational paths they take through an app.
  • Attitudinal research looks at users' feelings and attitudes towards an experience.

UX Research Methods

UX researchers have a variety of methods at their disposal to gather insights from users:

Card Sorting

Study participants organise topics into groups and create labels for these groups. This helps designers create intuitive and easy-to-navigate apps and websites.

Usability Testing

Participants try to complete a task with a product while being observed. This allows researchers to measure task success rates, completion times, problems encountered, and user satisfaction.

A/B Testing

A product is evaluated with two iterations to determine which the intended market prefers. You can accomplish this with live products by delivering separate versions of an email to different recipient lists or displaying different versions to different users.

User Interviews and Focus Groups

One-on-one or group interviews conducted face-to-face (online or in person) provide qualitative insights into what users want from a potential product or their experiences with an existing one.

Surveys and Questionnaires

Surveys and questionnaires can gather both quantitative and qualitative data. By using the same questions and conducting multiple surveys, researchers can track product improvement throughout its development and lifecycle.

Diary Studies

Target users log their day-to-day activities over an extended period, providing insights into real-world behaviours and experiences with a product.

Contextual Observation

Instead of interviewing users in a lab, researchers observe them in their natural context (e.g., at home or work) while asking questions to understand their behaviours and motivations.

First Click Testing

This type of user testing evaluates what a target user clicks on first when trying to complete a task on a website or app interface. It can be done on live sites, prototypes, or wireframes.

What Does a UX Researcher Do?

A UX researcher's day-to-day responsibilities may vary based on the project or company, but they typically include:

  • Collaborating with stakeholders and designers to understand research needs
  • Defining research questions and selecting appropriate data collection methods
  • Developing budgets and timelines for research projects
  • Recruiting participants for research studies
  • Conducting design research studies and analysing the collected data
  • Transforming findings into understandable insights
  • Presenting findings to designers, developers, and other stakeholders

Essential Skills and Tools for UX Researchers

Successful UX researchers often produce a set of skills to effectively gain insights into current and prospective users:

  • Communication skills: Effective communication with design teams and research participants is essential.
  • Empathy: Understanding users' expectations, frustrations, goals, and reasoning processes helps develop solutions to real user needs.
  • Design thinking: Each stage of the design thinking process (empathise, define, ideate, prototype, and test) offers opportunities to learn more about target users.
  • Problem-solving: Critical thinking about research questions helps select the appropriate methodology.
  • Curiosity: A sense of curiosity prompts insightful questions and meaningful insights.
  • Collaboration: UX researchers often work alongside developers, designers, product managers, and other stakeholders to bring the best possible product to market.

Other Roles in UI/UX

While research is a crucial aspect of UI/UX design, there are other related roles to consider:



UX Designers

Responsible for ensuring that users can easily use, enjoy, and benefit from items. 

UI Designers

Design the interface's visual components for computers and electronics.

Information Architects

Organise and manage information to make it intuitive, accessible, and understandable.

UX Engineers (Developers)

Translate designs into usable code.

Interaction Designers

Pay attention to the interaction that occurs between a product and its user.

Why Pursue a Career as a UX Researcher?

UX research is an in-demand and well-paying career for naturally curious individuals who enjoy working with teams:

  • UX Researcher Salary: According to the Onward Search Salary Guide for 2020, more than half of user researchers make $88,600 or more, with three-quarters making over $79,300.
  • Job Outlook: User researchers rank among the most in-demand digital creative professionals in 2020, and the job growth from 2017 to 2027 was predicted to be 19% (CNNMoney's 100 Best Jobs in America list).

How to Become a UX Researcher

There is no single established path to becoming a UX researcher, but here are some tips:

  • Get a degree in technology or behavioural science: While not always required, a degree in fields like human-computer interaction, psychology, statistics, computer science, information systems, design, or anthropology can be beneficial.
  • Develop your user research skills: Complete the Google UX Design Professional Certificate on Coursera, take hands-on projects, or learn from free resources like blogs and podcasts.
  • Gain UX research experience: Volunteer your skills for local businesses or nonprofits, apply for UX internships, or join hackathon teams.
  • Build your portfolio: Keep track of your best work and projects to showcase your skills and experience to potential employers.
  • Grow your network: Connect with UX research organisations, online communities, or coworkers in the industry to learn about new opportunities and potential employers.


UX research is a important aspect of product development, making sure that user needs and preferences are at the forefront of the design process. By mastering various research methods, developing essential skills, and gaining hands-on experience, you can embark on a rewarding career as a UX researcher, advocating for users and contributing to the creation of delightful and user-friendly products.

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