Changing your career is very natural and nothing you should be worried about. Did you know that it is estimated that most people will have 12 jobs during their lives? And that over 39% of people who are considering career changes are motivated by higher salaries? In the US, UX researchers make around $87,000 to $132,000/year on average. Starting a UX research career or transitioning to it from the different field may sound scary, but is totally possible with the right approach.
At first you should consider if the UX researcher job is for you.
In general, as UXR you have to:
Conduct a case study
Do desk research and understand the area of the project in depth. Go through research papers, articles from credible sources, look at statistics, read a book.
Choose relevant research methods
Make the right choices of qualitative and quantitative methods that are relevant for the given research topic and will serve the best to explore the problem area and users.
Carry out research activities with users
Talk to people, observe them, ask them. Conduct interviews, user observations, user tests, etc.
Challenge assumptions, use empathy, stay unbiased
Define a hypothesis, set a goal and challenge all the assumptions you or your team might have. Have an unbiased approach when forming research questions, use a lot of empathy while talking to participants.
Synthesize and analyze your findings
Carefully analyze participants‘ responses. Prove or disprove the hypothesis. Form a problem solution based on collected findings.
Understand technology, human psychology and organisational strategy
In order to propose a feasible solution, you have to acquire knowledge in areas such as technology, finance, brand values and importantly, your users.
Propose solutions, form decisions and communicate with the team
Communication is the key. You have to be able to communicate the research findings and user needs to the whole team in a simple, yet convincing way and negotiate the further development focus with them.
Let‘s take a look at 5 things you need to transition your career to UX research
Learn more about what User Research is
Before you become too excited about the role of researcher and jump straight into projects, it is important that you get familiar with what a proper UX research consists of and what the reports and research papers usually look like. The best way to do that, is to take a look at already existing research reports. If you are already working in a company that has a research team, read their reports. Otherwise reports (also templates of reports) can be found online.
On top of that, you can read books about UX research for beginners or start listening to podcasts like 99% Invisible by Roman Mars. Good book examples are “Just Enough Research” by Erika Hall and Jeffrey Zeldman, or “The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide” by Leah Buley. (see image below)
Things to look at:
- Research reports
- Podcasts, Books
Get familiar with research methods & tools
If you already have a brief image of the user research purpose and structure, it‘s time to learn all the different methods and tools that you will have to apply correctly and in the right context. You can take either free online courses available on platforms like Youtube, or paid courses on platforms like Coursera, Udemy, etc., that offer a certification to give your employer a proof that you‘ve studied the area. Maybe you can even consider getting a UX degree from a school or university that offers such a study program.
As a UX researcher, you should be able to name and use a number of qualitative and quantitative methods and know the difference between them. Quantitative research focuses on quantity, numbers – i.e. statistics or surveys, whereas Qualitative research is performed on a few users in the form of interviews or observations, focusing on their experience, values, needs, or behavior. There are also articles about the current trends in UX research and its future.
To learn more about user research tools, you can take a look into UXtweak features. UXtweak is a platform with powerful research tools for improving usability of websites and apps that will be a great helping hand for anyone who is transitioning their career to UX.
Things to look at:
- Schools/Universities teaching UX
- Online courses and articles
- Quantitative and Qualitative methods
- Research tools (i.e. UXtweak, etc.)
Work on empathy and unbiased approach
This is probably the most difficult part of a UX research career, yet this skill is what makes you different from the rest of the team. As a researcher, you have to learn how to formulate questions in such a way, that they won‘t be leading respondents to give you answers you wanted them to say.
User research and user testing should be included in all parts of the product/service development. Therefore you have to possess good communication skills and a lot of empathy towards your users, as you will have to include them in the research process a lot.
Apart from communication with users, you will communicate with the client, the development team or marketing team. All people within your company must be able to understand the research outcomes. That you can achieve with a proper, well structured analysis and a report or a presentation.
Things to look at:
- Behavior, psychology
- How to formulate questions
- Writing synthesis and analysis correctly
Follow digital trends
As you will be proposing new ideas and user-centred solutions to teams within the company, it is important that you understand the technical feasibility, financial viability and user desirability of those products or features. That‘s what makes a product innovative and user-focused. In simple words – Is it possible to create something like that? And do people really desire that product or service? It is crucial that you will always keep yourself updated about current trends in developing technology and design trends. You can do that by subscribing to some Tech blogs like NNgroup or Interaction Design Foundation, or Youtube channels.
Things to look at:
- Explore technical feasibility of digital products
- Keep yourself updated about current digital trends
- Subscribe to Tech Blogs/ Youtube channels
Find your first project and get professional feedback
Lastly, it‘s time to put yourself to work. Find your first project, study the topic, talk to users. Remember – there is no learning without mistakes. Don‘t expect your first attempts to turn into completely unbiased outcomes. Focus heavily on feedback from someone more experienced – can be a researcher in your company, can be some university professor, or you can seek researchers to give you feedback online (Linkedin, online forums). On top of that, there are hundreds of companies hiring interns and junior researchers. Internship will push you to work within the team, help you build your portfolio and prepare you for your first UXR job.
Things to look at:
- Personal projects
- Building portfolio
- Feedback from professionals
It‘s never too late to change a career!
We hope that this article has helped you to better understand the concept of UXR and maybe even to decide upon your future UX research career. Rather than relying on the intuitive decisions and assumptions of the development team, companies start to realize how important it is to have a researcher in the team. If you are a person who is considering hiring a researcher to your team, we wrote another article where we listed 5 benefits that companies gain after hiring a UX researcher.