4 Types Of User Research For Developing Buyer Personas 

Posted by Blake Schewe
on October 30, 2017

Conducting research is one of the most important steps to learning how to take a software or marketing user experience in the right direction. There are four types of user research that are touched on in this blog, and they all have specific purposes for the cycle of research processes. We will explore:

  • Background research
  • Qualitative research
  • Observational research
  • Quantitative research

Putting yourself in the shoes of the user helps you understand the results you’re shooting for.

Spending a significant amount of time and energy on research can seem tedious, but is instrumental in achieving success for the goals you are trying to achieve.

Specifically, with inbound marketing and growth driven design, we are trying to understand user behavior with our research. This data, when looked at for compiling really valuable buyer personas, is critical to help push your organization down the right path.

Developing a clear and actionable understanding on how users are acting before, during, and after engaging with what you are researching is the basis of how we gather data.

Background Research

background user researchThis may seem like a broad term and can cover a lot of areas, but background research consists of the first steps to learning about the client.

Researching the industry, competitors, and doing social media research on clients is a fantastic place to start when looking to find information.

Using simple tools like SEMRush, MOZ, and Google Trends provide statistics on the current state of a company, SEO rankings, and keywords they are (or should be) using on their site. We use this information as a baseline for many conversations to open the door, and sometimes highlight low-hanging fruit.

Also, deep research into the way the company culture operates seems very surface level, but it's actually a beautiful window into the way a brand can convey their product. Surveying the staff about the kind of value they perceive is delivered to clients is a great (and free) tool that generates a lot of noise and discussion.

This will tell you if tactics created after initial research are effective when comparing them to baseline measures recorded in the beginning.

Qualitative Research

qualitative research for usersPerforming qualitative research is by far the most “social” of all forms of research.

This is the most direct contact with the subject being researched, and often allows you to get the best personal judgement about what you are trying to learn.

Examples like client interviews, in-person user testing, slide up surveys, and online chatting are ways that you can gather information about the subject of study.

Often, you can learn just as much about the answers to questions/problems arising through in-person interaction methods like gestures, facial expressions, and body language.

This is often most beneficial to me, and is the step that I like to complete directly after the background research step.

Observational Research

observation user researchExecuting observational research can be assistive to your cause, due to gathering client data that is observed and obtained without interaction with the subject of study.

For example, viewing heat maps of all different kinds are observational, as well as watching recorded videos of users navigating and using sites in the form of user testing.

Being able to see the outcome of interaction with a website when a user is in their natural environment is the entire purpose of observational research, as it can show researchers what users do without guidance.

Think of observational research as watching a user from a glass box, not being able to perform any sort of interaction with their tasks being completed.

Quantitative Research

quantitative researchThis is in reference to data in the form of numbers and things that can be 'quantified.'

Categories such as general web analytics, event tracking, funnel reporting, and other statistics about websites are influential in being able to put a metric to how users interact on a website.

Getting data from keyword analysis, such as CPC (cost per click) and a percentage of difficulty to rank for keywords are both examples of quantitative research.

This will allow you to justify decisions made with numbers to influence and backup data-driven decisions.

All of these types of research contribute significantly to findings in their own unique way, because of the different types of ways you are interacting with the subject to collect data.

You will obtain significantly different data with the different styles of research methods, and that is why all of these need to be mentioned and considered when doing research.

Being able to get data in unique ways will allow you to develop an understanding of your subjects from all aspects and angles of the research process.

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