User testing vs. user research

Posted on October 24, 2022
3 min read


User feedback is the key to making any business successful—whether you’re launching an app, redesigning a website, refining product features, or making ongoing improvements to your customer experience.

User research, often used interchangeably with user testing, are methodologies used to understand users' behaviors. Therefore, user testing is a branch of user research. We'll dive deeper into the ins and outs of user testing and user research, why user testing is important, and the different types of user testing and user research.  

What is user research?

User research is an umbrella term for other forms of user testing like usability testing, surveys, and interviews. All in all, user research uncovers insights from users, helps improve your products, and places users at the center of your design process. It’s the practice of studying user interactions to help with the design of people-first products and experiences.

Types of user research

There are a plethora of user research methods that deliver valuable results. You can conduct user research in different ways, depending on your needs. If you want to learn about users' behavior, understand users' preferences, or just want to focus on becoming more customer-centric, there are several methods available. Here’s a few. 

Qualitative vs. quantitative research

When it comes to understanding your users, you may find yourself wondering if your UX research approach should be qualitative or quantitative. And it’s important to figure that out because the two types uncover very different insights.

To get a full picture of your user experience, you need to understand both what’s happening and why. If you only have quantitative data, you may be missing out on key insights that could make a difference in your understanding of the user experience. And if you only do qualitative research, you won’t be able to tell whether your findings are representative of a larger population.

Attitudinal vs. behavioral research

Though sometimes misconstrued as being the same thing, attitudinal and behavioral research are not synonymous. However, as with quantitative and qualitative research, the two can be useful when assessed concurrently. 

Attitudinal research involves the assessment of users’ preconceived attitudes or feelings toward an experience. For example, this could involve asking a user why they like or dislike a feature on your site prior to using it. In contrast, behavioral research is focused on what the user does. 

Drawing another parallel to the distinction between quantitative and qualitative methods, behavioral research will tell you what’s happening, while attitudinal research helps to provide the reason why it’s happening. Always keep in mind that what users say and what users do are often different

Generative vs evaluation research

The goals of generative and evaluation research (sometimes referred to as evaluative research) are very different. Generative research helps you define the problem you’d like to design a solution for. Evaluation research, on the other hand, helps you evaluate an existing design (in prototype, final, or some other form).

What is user testing?

User testing is a form of qualitative research that examines how well a product, software, prototype, or application performs for users. With user testing, you can identify any issues with your product's user experience, and make the necessary improvements before releasing the final version, thereby reducing costs and time wasted and ensuring a well-designed final product.

Why would organizations focus on user testing over other forms of user research?

To gain a deeper understanding of your customer, it's best to use qualitative research rather than quantitative. If your organization is seeking rich, deeper insights, user testing is the way to go. User testing provides detailed qualitative data about your users' perceptions. When you conduct user testing, whether it's through user interviews or user observation, you have the opportunity to see, hear, and speak directly to your users to gain insight into how they feel about your product. This enhances your understanding of your target user which in turn helps you design better products that suit your customers' needs and wants. 

User testing and user research work hand in hand

As you probably concluded, all forms of user research are imperative when organizations seek to build customer-focused products. When performing user research, you should monitor how customers are reacting to and interacting with these new products. This yields ideas on how to continue evolving your product. Seeking frequent feedback and insights from your customers is the best way to keep your finger on the pulse of customer challenges and expectations. This ensures that you’re making the right decisions and taking all the right steps toward ongoing customer loyalty and satisfaction.

Want to learn more?

Explore UX best practices, expert advice, user research templates, and more. 

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