Thinking of becoming a UX researcher? Good choice! Why? Well, the specialist role of a user experience researcher is becoming more and more important seeing as brands are creating such great products and experiences that users love these days. A UX researcher’s focus is to make sure brands are doing it right and basing their developments on user feedback and sufficient research – not business assumptions.
So let’s get started on what you need to know as a potential future UX researcher. Feel free to use our guide as a sort of checklist for your own endeavours.
We wish you the best of luck in your next move.
What is a UX researcher?
It’s all in the name! A UX researcher (short for User Experience researcher) carries out systematic research into the users and customer experiences of a brand and their products like apps or websites. The research at hand typically involves collecting and analysing qualitative and quantitative data to help inform and guide the design and product development process.
What does a UX researcher do?
The role of a UX researcher is to deliver the best possible user experience for a specific target audience, including building a better brand whose products are:
more efficiently functional
easy to use
more aligned with their consumer needs
and so on.
When you’re designing a new product or making an existing one better, one of the first steps to creating something user-centric is to start thinking about your users: Who are your users? What do they like? What do they need? Why do they need it? And how can a product assist in giving them everything?
A UX researcher answers these questions with data-driven research that backs up the conclusions and findings. Ultimately it’s all about eliminating the guesswork!
What does a UX researcher’s day-to-day look like?
User experience researchers work side-by-side with a brand, its users, and its customers.
A typical day in the office might include planning, carrying out, or writing up structured user-centred activities like: user interviews, focus groups, or surveys – all of which aim to collect information and feedback about a user’s experience of a product, their brand perception, or about who they are as consumers.
Essentially you’re a gatherer of information. Someone who identifies common user paths, behaviours, and feelings, and then translates the data into real insights that can be used by a business/ designer/product owner to build a better user experience.
What different UX researcher roles are out there?
Although there aren’t many specialist roles (for example, you can’t become an interviewer or survey specialist), there are many possibilities in terms of job position types, i.e. working as a consultant in a UX research agency or in-house for a product company. You’ll also find UX researcher jobs that are remote, freelance, or full-time in an office, etc.
What key UX researcher skills do you need?
UX researchers are people persons – naturally curious about how people live and what people think.
Showing empathy and curiosity is key seeing as UX research is all based on understanding people and their feelings. However, there is a mix of other soft and hard skills that make up a successful UX researcher:
Interest in human behaviour: knowledge or experience in a relevant field like cognitive science, sociology, and psychology.
Understanding of the design thinking process: the ability to ideate and innovate during all stages of the product development process.
Teamplayer: enjoy collaboration or working in a team. Be able to read between the lines of user feedback and pass the right suggestions on to the product team.
Problem-solving: self-driven with the ability to think critically and handle data and numerical analytics.
Tech-savvy: experience with research tools and design software is a bonus! Or just have a love for tech and be able to learn new software and tools quickly.
Good communication skills: be a good storyteller, be able to effectively communicate with all stakeholders, and be confident in running participant-facing activities.
Don’t worry if you’re not quite there yet. You can pick up on UX researcher skills by volunteering for a design project or looking for opportunities within your current role.
What’s the average UX researcher salary?
As a benchmark, we’ve looked at the average UX researcher salary in the MENA region. According to Glassdoor, the average UX researcher can earn up to AED 35,000 per month (that’s AED 420,000 per year).
This can also depend on your position level, varying from…
Associate 15,000 – 18,000
Senior – 18,000 – 25,000
Lead: 25,000 – 35,000
Tips for starting out as a user experience researcher
Finally, let’s look at our five biggest tips for succeeding in your user research career.
#1 Have a relevant degree (or great experience)
It hugely helps to have a degree in a relevant field including human sciences, psychology, computer science, human-computer interaction (HCI), anthropology, and digital communication, amongst others.
#2 Take part in continuous training
Practice makes perfect, so embrace different training resources. Try affordable blogs, books, and podcasts to learn the lingo and immerse yourself in the world of professional UX. Or there’s Nielsen Norman Group which offers certified training, courses and events.
It’s certainly impressive if you show potential employers that you love to learn.
#3 Stay up-to-date on human trends
Being clued up on the latest trends in the world of UX, business, and technology is a must – particularly on a global scale. You need to know what’s happening in the world and be aware of certain industry trends that are shifting consumer behaviours and interests.
For example, a good UX researcher – here in the UAE – working in the automotive industry should know that an increasing number of car owners are getting their petrol delivered to their door, rather than visiting petrol stations.
While you’re learning and completing projects, don’t forget to keep a record of your work and add your latest examples to a UX researcher portfolio. Think of this as a big showcase of what you know and what you can offer.
There are a few hosting options too. You can build a website on Wix or Squarepace, or simply keep your LinkedIn up-to-date by posting about your latest goings on.
Quick tips for an effective UX researcher portfolio:
If projects are team projects, make sure you highlight your key responsibilities.
Inform more about the process than the results themselves. Recruiters want to understand your role as a researcher.
Cut out all the sensitive information about users and participants (name, address, etc.)
Make sure what you are sharing is agreed with the client brand/company. Some projects may need to stay top secret.
#5 Be a solid team player
User research revolves around teamwork. You rarely work isolated away from others, so be willing to collaborate and communicate well with stakeholders and research participants from all walks of life (especially if you’re working in the multicultural MENA region).