Conducting user research is a skill in itself, with techniques and best practices as intricate as other design disciplines.
Luckily, those that came before have shared their advice in these 14 articles on improving your user research:
1. A Guide to User Testing (The Next Web)
Diving into the common misconceptions and categorizing your options comprehensively, Jerry Cao answers the main usability testing questions, including topics like moderated vs. unmoderated testing, and succinct descriptions of the most effective tests.
2. Interviewing Humans (A List Apart)
User interviews are one of the most popular, and most effective, forms of user research available; their range is as flexible and open as the questions you think to ask. Erika Hall gives a thorough overview of how to conduct the interviews, and yourself, including sample questions.
3. The Art of Guerilla Usability Testing (UX Booth)
Guerilla testing — more or less soliciting tester involvement from strangers at cafes or on the street — is great for bypassing the cumbersome, meticulous planning of collecting user research. David Peter Simon writes about how to manage this without coming off as a maniac.
4. Comprehensive Review of Usability and User Testing Tools (Smashing Magazine)
Cameron Chapman cuts user research preparation in half, with this easy-to-understand guide of the best testing tools available, including a comparison graph.
5. Three Misunderstandings about Design Research (Medium)
In this insightful article, Sasha Lubomirsky offers three pieces of design wisdom about user testing. A quick and worthwhile read, her three points can be applied to any testing type or method.
6. Collaborative User Testing: Less Bias, Better Research (A List Apart)
Bias is one of the natural enemies to accurate user testing, and it’s almost always lurking just around the corner. This piece by Alla Kholmatova is all about how to combat bias through collaboration at every stage of the process.
7. Understanding Simple Heat Maps for Smarter UI Design (UXPin Blog)
Heat maps simplify the results of click testing, which reveal where users think to click on sample screen shots. These heat maps, then, are a valuable analytics tool, and Sezgin Hergul explains how to read them and their best practices.
8. A Collaborative Lean UX Research Tool (Smashing Magazine)
User testing can, and should, involve the whole team. The Rainbow Spreadsheet activity encourages group participation by allowing team members to take notes simultaneously in a shared document. The activity’s creator, Tomar Sharon, explains the specifics in this feature.
9. Design User Research Explained for Everyone (Froont)
Want to learn about and improve your testing skills without having to read so many cumbersome words? Amid Moradganjeh sums up the basics and lists some practical advice using fun GIFs.
10. Practical Tips for Web and Mobile Usability Tests (The Next Web)
Usability testing varies between web and mobile — the types of tests, the target data, even mechanics like recording screen behavior. In a two-part feature, Jerry Cao isolates the differences and gives the best practices for each.
11. The Ultimate Guide to A/B Testing (Smashing Magazine)
A/B tests effectively fine-tune designs by ensuring your make the decisions in line with your users’ preferences, or at least the most preferred between two options. Paras Chopra explains how to make the most out of them, with dos & don’ts, and even some case studies.
12. The Future of UX Research: Uncovering the True Emotions of Our Users (User Experience Magazine)
Andrew Schall gives a fairly straightforward account of how technological advances are improving the results of user testing. In a nutshell, we’re able to more accurately document the emotions of testers, and the article explains the best ways to take advantage of this.
13. How Copywriting Can Benefit from User Research (Smashing Magazine)
User research supports all areas of the design, not just usability. Marli Mesibov discusses how copywriters can benefit from some of the same tests, as well as advice on interpreting traditional design documents for writing.
14. The Practical Beginner’s Guide to User Research (UXPin Blog)
If you ever needed one complete and concise guide to everything you need to know about user research, here it is. Jerry Cao summarizes the main points from A to Z, linking out to additional resources to deepen your understanding when needed.
The articles above explain user testing in bits and pieces, but for a complete, all-in-one guide, read our free ebook, The Guide to Usability Testing. This guidebook covers all the above topics in more detail, including the applications and best practices for over 30 effective design tests, and true stories from companies like Apple, Microsoft, Buffer, DirectTV, and more.