Best practices for user research

User research challenging? We provide you with five simple tips.

Whether you are building a website, app, or platform, you always deal with an end user. To make your digital application a success, you must get to know the user well. By addressing their wants and needs, you ensure more interaction and greater engagement with your brand. This can be achieved through user research. But what exactly is user research, and how do you set it up effectively? In this article, we provide five simple tips.

1. Ensure reliable results: select the right participants 

User research requires time and attention. When starting, it's crucial to choose participants for your research very carefully. A well-chosen participant list ensures relevant and accurate results that truly reflect your end user. 

How do you achieve this? Ideally, you work with participants who are representative of your target audience or audiences. You can refer back to your personas, which you should have already created. From those personas, extract a detailed profile for the ideal end user of your online application: age, education level, family situation, gender, type of job, other products they use, and things they buy. Ensure that the research participants match as many characteristics from the personas as possible.

Where do you find participants for your research? Customer panels, such as SurveyMonkey and Qualtrics, are a good solution. The voluntary, independent participants in these panels are selected from a global database based on your ideal customer profile.

2. Get people involved: provide the right incentives

Everyone is busy these days. So, if you want someone to genuinely take time out of their full schedule to share valuable insights or feedback with you, you need to offer something in return. A reward. A commonly used incentive is a financial compensation, such as a gift card from or vouchers that allow customers to use your services. 

3. Work efficiently: start with a small team

User research can be done effectively with a small team or even by one person. The key is proper preparation. Building a large team for this is unnecessary. 

Use what you already have. For example, assemble a focus group from a selection of loyal customers. Regularly ask them for feedback, especially when you've added a new feature to your application or website.

4. Get to the core: ask the right questions

Asking the right questions is crucial for any successful research. But how do you get the right questions? Consider your target audience (see also point 2) and the things you want to know through the research. You want to avoid creating noise in your research data because participants don't align well with what you want to know. Especially online, you can select well in this regard. For instance, if you have a website selling webcams, a sample question on your online survey could be:

Question: Which of these items did you purchase last month? 
Answers: Smartphone, Laptop, Computer, Plants, Bicycle

For further research, only use answers from people who selected smartphone, laptop, and/or computer. Disregard the rest.

Additionally, you can choose from several forms:

  • Open-ended questions: What feature do you like the most on our website? 
  • Scale: Rate your experience with our website on a scale of 1-10. 
  • Multiple-choice questions: A closed question where you can choose from a number of answers.

For live research, there are various forms, such as interactive games, dot voting, interviews, task execution, behavior recording/monitoring, eye-tracking, heatmaps, and more. Consider in advance which method best suits your research question. 

5. Stay sharp: different research stages, different methods

Each phase of your research requires a different approach, starting with the research question. Based on that, determine how to test it. The best approach varies for each study. Our advice: always keep the research goal in mind at every step. Decide based on that what the best next step is to collect your research results. 

There is no one-size-fits-all. However, from experience, we can provide a guideline. Roughly, it comes down to the following:

  • In the initial phase of the research, interviews with users and stakeholders are suitable.
  • During the testing phase, you can compare how participants interact with your application and their responses to strengthen your research.

By consistently choosing the best next step in your research process, you get closer to understanding your end user's needs. The more relevant the research results, the better your online applications will align with their needs. 



Delivering a great application or website? It's all about understanding the end user. Take the five simple tips in this article to heart and increase your chances of success. Additionally, don't forget: just as important as the research itself is to thoroughly test, validate, and then implement your findings. In other words: research, implement, repeat. User research provides a solid foundation for that.

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