Naive users of platforms and devices often approach and experience the products substantially differently than what the product development team had assumed and intended.
User research can discover these gaps and preempt problems in the user experience prior to launch.
While user experience research is a broad category that encapsulates multiple potential methods, its cornerstone methodology is usability research. Usability research involves a direct and focused observation of how users behave when they interact with a platform or device.
User / usability research is often discussed as having a more “hands-on” behavioral orientation, in contrast to other forms of qualitative research that have a more perceptual or attitudinal orientation.
While we agree overall with this characterization, we find that it does miss an important point—behaviors are still guided by perceptions and thought.
When engaging in tasks, users are often not immediately aware of those biases, preferences, and criteria that are guiding their choices to behave in certain ways.
Thus, our approach to usability research also prioritizes probing or interviewing users, as they are engaged in certain tasks, in ways that help them explicate those implicit / operational models of thought that guide their behaviors.